Category Archives: Personal

Biking from Avignon to Montpellier down the Rhone & Camargue

Lifeday: 25759 (70.525 yrs)
Date Sun 4 Feb 2018
Location: Lattes, Montpellier, France

A bit of a monster day especially with very limited food & drink (missing the ubiquitous 7Elevens of Asia)  plus going astray several times.

I left the hotel pretty late as I didn’t get to bed until after 1 am due to my late discovery that my home-brewed power cable to the 5 port USB charger still had the US flat pin plug that I fitted for Taiwan 🙁 so I ended up having to dismantle a converter plug to wrap the wires into its innards.

The planned route wanted me to go through a building so my diversion had me go around where folks just dump their rubbish and broken glass in the roadways 🙁 I wandered around the pretty historic centre for a while looking for food, alas nowhere open.

I then made the error of following the first river not realising I was in the confluence of two huge rivers, I eventually escaped over a bridge and discovered the Via Rhona cycle path a good track not tarmacked but OK, although a big worry is puncturing or breaking one of the fancy spokes. I went to Vallabregues and found a tiny supermarket open so I made do with a croissant and bottle of milk.

Flooded vines

Unfortunately, past Beaucaire I followed the cycle track signs and ended up going the wrong way down a dead end track through flooded vineyards 🙁  I went back and returned to the planned route on the Elemnt, but thank goodness I good navigate with the iPhone as the maps on the Elemnt are useless once you are off route.

In Arles all was deserted apart from old men drinking strong coffee & no bread shops open, making me remember just how awful biking in France on Sundays is 🙁 I spied an open bar in Gallician and ended up with a tin of peanuts and coke. It was then onto a gorgeous cycle path along the Canal du Rhone a Sete with great views fo the Camargue even the famed wild white horses.  The track continued to varying degrees all through the seaside towns such as La Grande Motte. In the summer these places must be so heaving as to render the pathways unusable but today was pretty quiet apart from rollerbladers and a few kids on bikes.

I at last found a bread shop open at La Levade and managed to devour some pies. Finding the Ibis Budget in Lattes proved hard as there are half a dozen hotels in a hodgepodge development but I made it just before dusk.  92 miles in just over 7 hours of riding through some very pretty villages a bit reminiscent of places on the Norfolk Broads with all the boats in town centres I found the Camargue a bit disappointing but maybe I didn’t find the truly wild spots.

The hotel is OK but I couldn’t face walking a mile to get some dinner so I stayed in with some M&Ms and hot choccy from the vending machine outside the room.

Tomorrow is the train to Barcelona, in the rain!

The days Strava:

Today’s photos on Flickr:


To Montpellier

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Wahoo Elemnt GPS comparison for cycling

image of Etrex 20, Wahoo Elemnt, iPhone 7
Etrex 20, Wahoo Elemnt, iPhone 7

Now that I’m thinking of doing DIY Audaxes it’s become essential to have a 100% reliable GPS system to record an accurate gpx trail over the 12 or so hours that a 200km ride takes me so I thought I would give the Wahoo Elemnt a try.

Of late I’ve had major problems with my Etrex20 turning off randomly (bad battery connection?) the iPhone crashing, the Apple Watch also crashing mysteriously.  So I’ve now bought a Wahoo Elemnt to see if that works any better!

Today I did a ride with SWNC to try them out and of cause, none failed 🙂  Here are the results:-

 Distance (miles) Move Time  Elevation (metres)  Move Avg (mph)  Total time  Device
58.45 4:20:58 1944 13.4 6:37:02 Etrex 20
 58.11 4;13:36  1980 13.7 6:36;18 Wahoo Elemnt
 59.99 4:43:27 2313 12.7 6:35:11  IPhone Strava app

All above taken from uploaded gpx files to Strava

Important to note the Etrex & Elemnt stayed on the bike outside at the coffee stops whereas the iPhone came inside with me.

One major disadvantage of all the above is that none can read the Apple Watch heart rate data although the Cyclemeter app can do it in a rather random fashion.

The Elemnt used 50% of its battery in the over 6 hours it was on, so should be able to manage an Audax with no en-route charging, the screen did seem very clear plus the red lights warning you when not on the route could be very useful since another DIY Audax requirement is that you stick to the route previously submitted! A problem with the device could be the lack of a lanyard hole so it could fly off the bars in a major accident. It’s good for the ego to see the auto stop is snappier than the Garmin so making the average moving speed faster 🙂

The Etrex20 has a lanyard connection plus uses AA batteries and did only use ~50% of the battery too. However, the screen is harder to view unless the backlight is on which tends to kill the battery. Plus of cause, it uses the famous buggy Garmin software 🙁

The iPhone is the most disappointing fulfilling the “Jack of all trades – master of none” phase. For really serious uses where it would be awful to have a mangled gpx file after riding all day, it’s just too risky to totally rely on! However, as a  touring GPS, it’s awesome for maps and ad hoc routes on the roadside plus booking accommodation on the move etc.

So for the moment, I will carry all 3 devices on my Audaxes 🙂 the Etrex is £100 cheaper than the Wahoo but has much less functionality although in some ways that can be an advantage as its less likely to crash.

ps Just reading this thread!topic/wahoo-elemnt-users/jztOem_VNR4 doesn’t inspire confidence 🙁


Lifeday 25,691 Surprise tour by car

With the bike safely packed I had the whole day free as the flight isn’t until 11.45pm. By an amazing coincidence, LingLing who owns La Maison Du Steak Restaurant in Cambridge and is a longstanding friend happened to be in Taipei to visit her family and attend a wedding over the last weekend.

So this morning she appeared with her sister in a posh car to take me on a little tour of President Chiang Kai-shek House & Mausoleum, Daxi Tea Factory & Daxi Old Street and of cause a lovely vegetarian restaurant 🙂

A pat on the head from Chiang Kai Shek

Of cause now I’m leaving it turned into a gorgeous warm sunny day with no wind, perfect for cycling, but good for tourist pics too 🙂 Interesting to see the pics of the Taroko Pass being built with picks & shovels. Even more amazing is the park with all his various statues that have been removed, on the New Governments Orders apparently, from all over Taiwan and now parked in the park! Quite bizarre. We also took in the changing of the guard at the mausoleum which I’m afraid just so reminded of Cleese in Ministry of Funny Walks 🙂

Afterwards, we drove down the Old Street in Daxi where totally amazingly I spotted fellow cyclists Graham & Frances out for a stroll! our third such meeting 🙂

Then time for lunch in a real Vegetarian Restaurant where the food is sold by weight and incredibly cheap then LingLing took me to an ice bar from the days before ice cream where a blog of ice is scraped into a bowl, you pop in the fruit you want (sold by weight) then more ice and goo is spread over. Quite good although the fruit should be in smaller chunks.

A great morning and good to have the “local knowledge” from a real knowledgeable bi-lingual person. So many thanks, LingLing & your sister!

Around Daxi

A more ‘in depth’ take on the park is here

Lifeday 25,690 Taiwan bike ride finished & bike reboxed

My 2017 Taiwan bikeride
My 2017 Taiwan bikeride

Oh dear no posts during the Taiwan bike trip 🙁 and the bike is all boxed up and ready to fly tomorrow. I’ve had an excellent time apart from my wretched cold and the daily rain showers with occasional strong winds but it’s lovely and warm so those discomforts didn’t matter 🙂

I did one complete clockwise loop of the island reaching both lighthouses at each end. Plus straight across the island to the Sun & Moon Lake and then up to the highest mountain pass in Taiwan at Wuling, 3,275 metres above sea level quickly followed by the awesome 10,700 foot descent down the renowned Taroko gorge, the highlight of the trip even though it was pouring rain and I ended up riding for two hours in the dark; although the amazing Qingshui Cliff section on the East Coast Suao-Hualien  road was a close second. I was very fortunate as there had been a very recent landslide which blocked the road, although I snook across 🙂 so I could zig-zag across and get loads of cool pics.

I like Taiwan a lot relatively cheap, my accommodation averaged out at £36 a night with quite a few ‘fancy’ places, food is inexpensive and plentiful with 7-Elevens seemingly around every corner street markets everywhere. The drivers are courteous but watch out for the zillions of scooters in the towns. Roads are well marked for cycles with many super duper special cycle paths. Although the Route 1 cycleway fails to use them! Its more set up for folks who want to bomb around the island in 9 days 🙁  the route manual is here!

All the route details are on Strava and pics are all on Flickr, hopefully, the links will appear in the spreadsheet below:

I met some interesting folks and hope to be able to introduce Sally to Graham & Frances on our next little UK tour.

My basic stats for the trip are 926 miles biked with 51,500 feet of climbing, 106 hours riding time in 19 days plus 8 rest days. Amazingly 144GB of internet data used, well it was an unlimited SIM. 🙂