Cycling in the Ardeche

Our first proper stop on our month long cycle adventure has been the Aredeche, southern France. To put simply, this is a massively underestimated area for riding and I would strongly recommend anyone who loves road riding to visit.

The cols are anywhere between 500m and 1000m making the riding achievable for even beginners to bag a few cols in a day and for more experiences cyclist to create some very challenging routes.

As many of the cols are smaller than in Savoie where we usually ride, it was a great pleasure to be able to link towns together in many different ways allowing loops and additions to pre planned rides taking into account how we felt. Something that isn’t always possible in the high cols of the alps.

The Tarmac is smooth, there are very few cars, many cyclist and for the end of march it’s warm (20degs).

I would strongly recommend a week here. Get a map and go explore everything this stunning area has to offer. The views are worth it alone!

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Next up…mt Ventoux

Keep up to date via

Twitter: @benalpinetweet
Instagram: @mansell85

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Wheel Build

Our Exposure dynamo hubs needed building into wheels for our Charge Bikes, so after our morning ride yesterday, I set about lacing the hub onto an aero rim for the front.

The charge plugs are the first 700c bikes we’ve properly used with discs so having an aero rim is a small advantage pointing at discs on road bikes being here to stay.

I won’t go into details but the wheel took about 90mins to build and tension. Very happy with it and hopefully will have it in place and wired to ride ASAP.

Box of goodies ready to start:

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New Versatile Adventure Racing Kit

We were lucky enough to be invited down last week to sunny Somerset to meet up with the guys at Charge Bikes. They have been kind enough to supply us with our long distance bikes we will be using for the Transcontinental Race.

The bikes they had lined up for us were the fantastic Plug 5 that are their top of the pile ‘on road adventure’ bike. Lightweight but strong steel frames, compact gearing, super strong wheels and very importantly disc brakes!

We thought that these would be important due to the extra carrying weight of our kit and the issues that can arise with the rims wearing down and failing and also their performance gains in the wet.

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The only additions that we made, were to switch the stock sram hydro brakes with some cable ones as if there were issues we could easily fix them ourselves, whereas those that use hydraulic brakes know, problems can seldom be ‘bodged’ at the side of the road or trail and require specialist kit that we simply won’t be carrying. The only other alteration that will be made, will be to put a 30t or 32t rear cassette on instead of the stock 28t. Dragging our sorry bodies up the stelvio pass to check point 2 will be hard enough on its own, without a weeks solid riding under our belts and touring kit. Every little helps to keep the cadence and speed up!

We were also offered a selection of their brand new line of saddles. Three in the range, all with a polycarbonate base offering support yet a small amount of flex and different fits to suit different shapes and riding styles. The hardest choice was which colour?

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We can’t wait to get riding some big days on them and will keep updated with a 100km and 1000km review as soon as they’re done!

As well as Charge helping out enormously with the bikes, Oakley and Giro have supplied all our cycling kit. We couldn’t be happier working with these brands.

The Giro shoes and clothing that arrived for us looked fantastic. They have really stepped up recently and made some fantastic garments. We received a massive mix of items from undershirts to shorts and jerseys.

Gaby’s favorite item so far is her Primaloft Gilet. Super light weight, it packs up to be the size of an apple (great for stowing in a back pocket) and is warm abs windprood. She’s barely taken it off.

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The long sleeved windproof hoody has also been a favorite, providing warmth whilst pedaling but still looking great when off it.

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I’ve been using oakleys to ride with all my life so being supplied with all our eye wear from them was a dream. The colour orange has popped up a fair bit so we thought it might be an appropriate theme for some of our clothing since the bikes are totally stealth, a little tangerine burst might look great, as well as adding a safety aspect for riding at dawn and dusk.

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Without doubt my two favorite items. Giro Empire lace up shoes with Oakley Radar Locks with Polarized Fire Iridium Lens. I never used to be too fused about colour…all that has changed. The photos do not do justice to these two! The orange is a mix between fluro and the sun. Intense.

The shoes are simply stunning, incredibly light and with the lace ups (a feature very rarely seen on road shoes, let alone performance ones) means that they fit like a glove. The sole also offers a massive amount of support as it’s made from Easton’s EC90 carbon, their top stuff.

Plenty more photos and write ups of the kit will be coming up, but for now keep up to date with our adventures, photos and locations via

Twitter: @benalpinetweet
Instagram: @mansell85

These will both be updated as regularly as possible.

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Simple Bikes with Tech Accessories for Transcontinental

The Transcontinental Race that we have entered this summer is not only requiring a lot of training and extra riding (not a bad thing at all), but a lot of extra equipment that we didn’t previously have.

We have done loads of research online which has brought about so much information and advice that we quite simply didn’t know where to go with it. So we decided to change our tactics slightly and ask people directly their experiences with kit on ultra distances races and if they would change anything they currently have, hopefully leading us to a ‘perfect set up’.

First up was Power.
On an event like transcon, where we aim to finish in 12-14days, every bit of time counts. Some competitors we have talked to at the World Cycle Race Send Off have said they will travel with minimum equipment and stay in hotels every night, with minimum ‘back up’ lights if it starts getting late. They would charge their phones, gps systems and lights over night and set off again first thing in the morning. They have a very strict route and have planned everything…

We thought…hmm not quite how we want to do it.

So a power supply was necessary to charge all our kit on the go. We looked at solar chargers of all shapes, sizes, dimensions and prices and realised there wasn’t any one outstanding item that would be suitable for our needs. This lead us onto dynamo Hubs.

After much trawling the interweb we found there to be only 1 main supplier of hubs; SON Delux. These looked fantastic and suited our needs, but while we dawdled working out all the other bits we needed, Exposure Lights brought out their own take on the system. Having previously used their joystick and spark lights and been very pleased with every aspect of their performance and price we snapped up 2 sets of their revo dynamo hub sets.

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The first thing that always grabs my attention about a new product is the packaging, and from exposure the lights arrived in a great little carry case. I know the items will live on our bikes, but for me this is a great addition to keep the items safe and organized when not in use.

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The Red anodized disc hub has the ability to power the front 800 lumen light as well as a rear red eye light at speeds over 8km per hour, for our needs this is perfect.

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As with all of their products, the lights are fantastically machined and installed using a quick release bracket meaning they can be removed on the fly and stored in bags when not in use.

From the hub, we also have the ability to run a USB port for gps and IPhone charging on the go.

This product has been around for a while and in my opinion opened up a whole world of ultra distance riding being totally self sufficient for navigation, lighting, photos and communication.

Companies really seem to be taking note for packaging and protection and the Plug 3 from Supernova arrived in a beautiful display tin.

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The unit replaces the original stem top cap and will sit above the stem, with wiring leading through the steerer tube. Neat, tidy and innovative!

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All the parts will be bolted onto our bikes ASAP and our dusk ’til dawn riding will commence as well as our tour around the island of Corsica which will take between 3-4 days.

Great British Tourism

Aside

We landed back at City airport on Saturday morning after a fantastic week in Ibiza. We had scheduled in 2 weeks to tour around the UK allowing for some quality time with family and friends as well as a bit of time to repack and get the van ready to live in over the summer, following our 4 week tour around the Mediterranean.

We have been back for a week so far and it would be an understatement to say we have been spoilt! We have been taken out for some delicious meals, had countless cups of tea and biscuits and are feeling very lucky. Its been harder than normally keeping up with the amount of cycling that we would like to be doing but we have both decided to take the opportunity to see people we haven’t seen for quite a while and as soon as we are back across the channel turn our focuses back to riding our bikes for long times up big hills (hopefully in the sun).

Our UK tour started in London celebrating my Grandad’s 80th Birthday. He celebrated in style with 150 family members and close friends at a venue near Charring Cross. Whilst in London, any spare time we had was spent wandering the streets and parks acting like tourists.

Considering France is the hope of ‘The Great Race’, there are very few bike shops open, let alone any that are worth visiting or purchasing from, unless you are in dire need of a tube. The prices are so high and opening hours so erratic that I do wonder how they stay afloat.  So whilst in London, we decided to make the most of the abundance of great shops and vibrant scene and visit some famous velo locations- such as Rapha, Condor and Kinoko. Not just bike shops anymore, these places are verging on Art Galleries and Museums, with stunning bikes and components dripping from the walls.

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I took the chance to sneak off for a haircut whilst Ben and his friend Graeme shot off on what turned out to be quite an epic pedal completing London- Brighton- London.

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They absolutely flew all the way there and completed the first 100km within  2 and a half hours were sitting by the beach in a cafe having lunch. (Not realising that they had been helped along by a tail wind).

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The way back was much harder fighting a head wind all the way, plus climbing the infamous Chalk Hill Lane, at 20 percent hill rising up just before Croyden Road. Eventually after a 4 and a half hour slog back they were home and after a quick wash we were straight out the door to meet another good friend Anja for a Wagamama, I think Ben was thankful for the generous portion sizes that Wagamama is known for!

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The  London transport systems are fantastic and it makes life there so convenient to travel. We decided that since we were lucky and experienced a few sunny days, that the Boris Bikes would make for the most effective transport. They were brilliant, you can dodge the crowds of the tubes, the traffic and take in all the amazing sights London has to offer.

We have been extremely lucky with the weather so far so it hasn’t been to hard to adjust post Ibiza, 23 Degrees C in London is good in anyone’s book. We even managed to keep our Island tans topped up.

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Out of the comfort zone!

Yesterday was windy, today was very windy, and on a small island with some beautiful coastal roads that need exploring it can make for very difficult if not dangerous exploring.

Checking the weather local forecast we were informed that the 60kmph winds would die down in the early afternoon. We decided that, along with Si from Velo Club Ibiza, we would get cracking at around 9.30 in the morning, only suffering a few hours of the harsh wind!

The first km of the route lead us out to salines, a huge salt farm on a peninsular of the island towards the south. Running a salt farm involves lots and lots of very large, flat inlets which capture sea water and then dry in the sun for the salt to be removed and stored…great, apart from the prevailing winds which we faced head on put us at a crawling pace and constantly being buffered all over the road, luckily there was very little traffic to worry about. No photos here I’m afraid as I was too busy stopping my bike blowing away. If people think riding in wind is easy, think again. I was using a heart rate monitor today at on the flat at 20kmp I was pushing out 155bpm…typically higher than I would when climbing!!

We were then lead in land to escape the wind and then lead straight off a perfectly good but of Tarmac and straight onto a ‘camino’ or rough road as the locals call them. This wound around the foot of a the highest peak in Ibiza and then finally shot skywards!

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We were a little hesitant to start on this road due to very skinny 23mm tyres, however, the bikes were amazing and never struggled for grip anywhere on the climb, providing you were seated. This camino lead us to just under 500m and some stunning views.

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From up here we could see the whole island, all the hills, coves, beaches, roads and towns, stunning!

The descent back down wasn’t as bad as we had imagine, sure, being on my Santa Cruz Nomad would have been way more fun and we spotted some trails diving of to the sides, but that wasn’t the point.

Once back on Tarmac we had another 50km of twisty, undulating, empty but blustery roads to go before our lunch stop rendez vous with Stefan from the Rapha Continental team!

It was great to meet him and over some osso bucco, ensalada pollo and cerveza we discussed trips, bikes, mountains, travel and ideas!

The wind finally died down so the final 30km home flew by!

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We arrived home, feeling beaten by the wind but satisfied after a tough day in the saddle, with 125km and 2000m climbing!

A beer on the harbor side was very much needed after that.

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Winter Cycling on the White Island

Many people associate Ibiza with sun, sea, sand and super clubs, but we had heard a little secret about the white isle…that the road cycling there was fantastic!

We decided a week away in the sun was in order, not only to recharge after a tough winter of cycling in ski kit, but also to try and kick start our training for transcontinental and the tour de Mont Blanc.

The plane touched down yesterday at 10am and we were met with a massive smile and warm handshake by Simon from VeloClubIbiza. He was someone that we had been in contact with via twitter and had sorted us out with some perfect accommodation overlooking the sea and harbor, with plenty of space for bikes.

We unpacked our steads from their boxes straight away and checked nothing had been smashed to pieces on the flight…lucky this time. Kit on and out the door!

Simon as well as being our liaison on the island had also offered to take us riding, where he could to show us some Gems that most people would miss when they come out. After 5 minutes of cycling we were deep in the hills and well away from any cars or lorries on perfectly smooth Tarmac undulating and weaving through orange trees and white villas.

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There were some beautiful climbs and stunning cliff top roads all totally deserted and in beautiful condition. I can honestly say this was one of the best rides I had ever been on and it was just the first day.

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This ‘warm up ride’ turned into a very fast 80km around the island with over 1000m climbing, done in just under 3hours.

Our second day started with the sun illuminating our room and reminding us that even though it is early march, ibiza can get very warm. We donned our shorts and jerseys and got out the door as fast as possible to grab some coffee and food in Ibiza old town. We heard that there was a ‘festival’ on in town to celebrate the start of spring. It truly was a site to behold! All of the central roads around the port were blocked by police and children of all ages and adults were parading through town on a huge range of floats playing music and dancing all around. What a beautiful way to start spring.

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Right above us was the old town, perched high on the cliff tops over looking the sea and the turquoise water. Some very steep and cobbled roads led us right to the battlements surrounding the highest points and gave us our first proper look out of Ibiza and it’s main town.

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After a quick coffee and serano ham sandwich we pedaled off to explore the deserted costal roads and stunning views.

It was already lunch time and showing 25degrees Celsius on my garmin. For me this is a perfect riding temperature, hot enough for summer clothes and shoes, but not so hot to be drinking water by the gallon to hydrate from sweating.

We found some gorgeous secluded beaches and coves that we will go back and explore later in the week.

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Today was simply a stretch of our legs and a ride to explore the south west part of the island and to get our bearings. We can’t wait for some bigger, longer, higher and faster rides in the area.

So far Ibiza has blown me away; warm, sunny, empty roads, friendly locals and challenging rides what more do you want?

…now into town for tapas, cerveza and a little festival!

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Mansell