Gear Shift - French Alps 2015 - CycleBlaze

May 14, 2015

Gear Shift

It helps of course that we've done a fair job of keeping ourselves in reasonable shape over the years and have been both blessed so far with such good health. We've also been helped along by advances in technology. We bike lighter and more easily now than was possible twenty-some years ago.

Coincidentally we just came across the bicycle Rachael rode in these early tours and were startled by the reminder of all that has changed. What an antique! Improvements in the braking and shifting systems make it much easier to deal with the constantly changing terrain of a mountain tour.

This is the best shot I could find of our bikes from our first European tour - we were carrying film so I was pretty sparing about what merited a shot. I rode a Trek 520 and Rachael was on a Bridgestone 1200, the first bicycle she ever owned. This was the final tour for both of these bikes.Here we're dealing with a major breakdown in Lapalisse, just north of Vichy. After 5 weeks on the road and many days of high-contour terrain, my rear dérailleur broke. We couldn't get to a bike shop so I converted my bike to a one speed for the remaining 300 miles to Paris. Remarkably, this happened just after we completed the last real climb of the tour - it was downhill or flat from here to DeGaulle, so a one speed was frustrating but manageable.
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Now we ride Bike Friday New World Tourists, which we picked up in 2009 after airline fees were jacked up so steeply. In the old days we always fretted at the end of a tour about the return flight - we would just bike up to the airport and trust to luck on whether they'd have bike boxes anywhere and allow us on the plane. Now, we love being able to fully pack up at home or our final motel and just wheel our Samsonites up to check-in, not to mention saving about $500/tour in excess baggage fees. By now, they've fully paid for themselves in fee avoidance.

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Touring life in the Paper Era. This is a recreation of course, but a fair picture of how we traveled back in 1993:7 or 8 novels (selected after negotiations, since they served for both of us for the coming month); 2 or 3 travel guides (usually torn up so that we only carried the sections we needed), a library of road maps, a writing pad and paper. Not shown: a film camera (probably a simple Kodak - I forget now) and a dozen rolls of film.
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Bike touring in the Electronic Age: iPad Air, Nexus 7, Garmin GPSmap 62S, Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX7, Contour+2 videocam, iPhone, Cyclolite rechargeable headlight and rear flashers, SD card reader, camera memory, current adapters, batteries and rechargers.
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