You don't need a support car to go up an Alp

by nick h.   July 22, 2012  

Farewell Francis, you dweeb. Just in case you've confused anyone I thought I'd share the easy shame-free way to do what you've done. (Believe it or not there are cyclists out there who think self-supported touring is nigh on impossible.) It's so simple and straightforward and fan-bloody-tastic that everyone should just get on and do it, often. It shouldn't be a 'once in a lifetime' high drama with a personal mechanic, spare bikes and ice baths. It's just a holiday for fuck's sake. And much more fun than going up an Alp with thousands of other people on a sportive.

Use whatever bike you've got. You don't need a rack and panniers - a bar bag and a biggish tail pack (e.g the Carradice SQR Tour) are plenty. Pack as little as possible. One set of cycling clothes is enough - just rinse them every evening to get the sweat out, wring them in a rolled up towel and they'll dry overnight. For street clothes all you need is one shirt, one pair of ultralight travel trousers and some flip-flops. Stay in youth hostels. French ones are cheap and fun and plentiful and there's no age limit.

Get to France by ferry and by the time you see the mountains you should be fit enough to get up them. Most people don't need a triple chainset, unless they've got panniers full of camping gear and spare clothes. If you pack light you'll manage with 39 x 26. If you can't, just leave your bags at the bottom of the climb in a bar/under a bush. Then you'll have the joy of ascending/descending without luggage, which is bloody lovely.

Most of the big name climbs aren't steep, just very long. Average gradient is typically 7% with the odd stretch of 10 or 12%. So just fucking do it. Alpe d'Huez, the Galibier, Mont Ventoux, they're all just sitting there waiting for you, and there's no hallowed tarmac which is a "privilege to share with the pros". They're just public roads, with a few cars on, which is good because the natives are friendly and will give you water if you wave an empty bottle at them. Lots of them will treat you like royalty just because you're on a bike. The only cars which cut you up are the ones with GB plates. The worst problem you will encounter is increased fury at the way cyclists are treated when you come back.

17 user comments

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So just fucking do it

Such an honour

Devil Devil

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
22nd July 2012 - 22:19

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I rode to Paris once with a bag over my shoulder; good fun! I phoned my mum and dad to say hello, they were freaking out...they thought I was joking or at least would not make the ferry! A great ride! But panniers are a good idea!

posted by SideBurn [763 posts]
22nd July 2012 - 22:29

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'Methinks Nick h you should perhaps have recorded the coverage and fast forwarded through the ad breaks. Never mind, I'm sure Halfords will give you the chance to perfect this technique next year Devil

posted by FMOAB [219 posts]
22nd July 2012 - 23:58

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I like the cut of Nick.H's jib.

Good post.

posted by farrell [1247 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 13:21

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Sorry, but however bad the 'Tour de Francis' was it's a refreshing change from hearing Boardman wonder why there's a second place on the podium...

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 13:48

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Smashing up and down by that river though.

Sick

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 15:01

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Next year lets do a mash up, Boardman talking about smashing it up and down second place on the podium...

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 15:46

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Great post, and you do indeed make me want to have a go, but what is it with people having a go at Dan Francis? I can well understand any antipathy towards Halfords Marketing Dept etc, but all Francis did was get presented with a cool opportunity and took it!

(Alright, so having the honour of riding the same roads sounded a bit odd, but how many of would know exactly what to say in front of a camera? I'd probably have no words at all, or fumble the entire thing)

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2890 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 17:12

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I'm still trying to forget the Boardman ads. Halfords is just one of those companies that specialises in ads that make you want to smash your fist through the TV. Their chief exec was sacked on Friday after "a sustained period of underperformance". http://tinyurl.com/cdb9v2j Funny that.

posted by nick h. [29 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 17:18

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I've got nothing against Mr Francis. The ad agency was trying to make a drama out of something mundane so they put words in his mouth in a desperate attempt to build it up. I might even have blubbed if I'd done it. Not because of snow/wife/cold hands, but the rage and humiliation of despoiling a nice ride up an Alp with a car at your heels all the way. That would have had me exploding in frustration at the sheer waste and stupidity of it all.

posted by nick h. [29 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 17:59

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It could have been worse the car could have been in front so Dan francis could choke on the exhaust fumes Sick

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [555 posts]
23rd July 2012 - 20:25

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I know Dan - he is a really top bloke.

He applied cos someone showed him the halfiords "offer" and his surname fitted. He made the initial interview, and thought he wouldn't make round 2... and was amazed when he did because there were much better cyclists at the interview. Maybe the producers didn't want somebody that clearly think they would poo-poo a support car whe provided FoC.

He never thought he would be capable of doing "it" but enjoyed it immensely. As I suspect we all would.

No you don't need a support crew to do it, of course. But if you get given one, I suspect nobody will turn it down. You don't need carbon bikes with zipp wheels etc etc etc to go for as bike ride either - but I bet lots of people on here do.

Yes the adverts were cheesy - but it seems to go hand in glove with the show every year. Don't necessarily confuse Dan Francis with what you see in 10 second chunks each side of Liggett repeating everything his offsider comments on.

didds

Lucky Dan I say, and good effort for someone that isn;t a 1000 miles a week cyclist.

posted by didds [41 posts]
25th July 2012 - 22:33

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I agree, the adverts are cheesy every year and that's in no way down to Dan.

Perhaps the problem here is that we, the people on this forum who know about and enjoy cycling, are not actually the target audience for these adverts? Who here, if they were looking for a new bike, would go to Halfords? Established cyclists are not really Halfords target market, new cyclists and people looking to buy their kids a mountain bike for christmas are who Halfords sell to on the most part (although I guess the Boardman bikes have gone some way to changing this) so these adverts are probably pitched about right for the people Halfords are going after.

If you're new to cycling (having watched Wiggins win the tour on ITV4) then you may think 'Ooh! I could get me one of them fancy Halfords carbon bikes I've been seeing on the tele and ride up mountains just like that normal man Dan Francis!' and Halfords' marketing department will have done their job to perfection.

Also, should we really be complaining about Halfords when for the past few years they're the only ones who've really been supporting ITVs cycling coverage? It's only this year and last that I've started to notice other 'cycling brands' advertising like Wiggle. Halfords have put money into supporting/advertising the ITVs coverage and that surely is only a good thing?

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
26th July 2012 - 8:12

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Well said drheaton; except that Halfords have been supporting professional cycling for decades! Remember ANC Halfords in the '80's?

posted by SideBurn [763 posts]
26th July 2012 - 8:41

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Sorry, I was only born the 80s and to be honest I don't really remember much TdF coverage before the Armstrong years... didn't the TdF use to be on Channel 4?

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
26th July 2012 - 8:57

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There used to be a City centre cycling series shown on prime time Channel 4 that generated huge interest in cycling. As well as Tour de France coverage on C4. It just fizzled out; along with ANC Halfords (who entered the Tour) but Halfords have been there sponsoring cycling for as long as I remember. And no I have never bought a bike from them!

posted by SideBurn [763 posts]
26th July 2012 - 9:30

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Nick H. Totally agree with the sentiment but we can't all do it in a 'Thelma and Louise' style of riding off at dawn to catch the ferry and then cycle the 600 miles down to the Alps and back again. I only wish I had the time and a wife and kids tolerant enough to allow me the indulgence. However, I have found myself casually checking out the easyjet flights to Nice and Geneva. All I need is a bike box strong enough to withstand the hammering our friendly baggage handlers will give it.

Or maybe I'll get myself to Manchester airport and just wander on to a flight....

Before anyone else hammers Dan Francis, just consider if you had a camera in your face for several days, whether you would say the odd daft thing. When we've long forgotten his name and the crap adverts, he'll no doubt have some great memories.

Does anyone remember the old idents on the ITV TdF coverage: 'Hello, I'm (an embarrassed and ever so self conscious pro) and you're watching the Tour de France on ITV). Circa 2003-4? They were ace.

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [536 posts]
26th July 2012 - 9:54

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