There are exceptions to the truism”you get what you pay for.” Buying a French Cycling bike is not one of them. This is not a cost. This is an investment. A chocolate bar is a cost. Once it’s gone – end o’ story. A good touring bike is an investment. A continuing story. More than simply reliable transportation. It’s also your confidante ,dream facilitator, passport to adventure and your best travellin’ pal. So – ya need to find the best travelling pal possible. N’est ce pas?
Here are the “Friendship Qualities” to look for :
Light n’ strong. Here’s where “more”(dollars) is ,most often, mo’ beddah.$400-800 should getcha 90% of the cycling enchilada. In this price range the frame will likely be “cromoly” – a tasty blend of chrome and aluminium.
The more pictures of dead presidents you have to play with – the lighter the frame. The nth degree being carbon fibre. After that, it’s “the sky’s the limit price club.” Frames built with stuff NASA is only dreaming about!
Don’t, repeat don’t economize here. This is what “floats yer boat.” So invest in the best. $25 to $45 per tire is the range. I use, and recommend, the “Dutch perfect” brand.(Even tho’ they’re not paying me for this. Hint-hint!) This tire has an interior layer that traps tire-puncturin’ nasties. Preventin’ ‘em from doin’ in the rubber you float on.
The “Dutch Perfect’s” come with a one year guarantee.(in normal use) I’ve used them abnormally (what else?)six months with no punctures……but two (one front, one rear) “tube failures” due to heat and weight. Sadly, there are no “quality options” for tubes.
Should ya carry a spare? This is a “should I wear a helmet?” question. Depends on yer comfort zone /weight preferences. But, in a zillion and a half years of cycling, I’ve only had a tire explode on me once. (Front one, at that!)
ALWAYS a minimum of two spares. I used to repair tubes. But(again, “too soon old –too late smart”) all the hassle/time/aggro of finding the puncture, marking it applying the glue, waiting for it to set, applying the patch, “proving” the patch..etc (getting tired already are’nt ya?) Finally burned the truth into my tiny brain. This is a classic definition of false economy. Ok – I’m not a zillionaire yet but $5(or less)to avoid this dance? – sign me up!
What non-bike folks call “the seat.” Like a good mattress it should be firm.(ie-support not surround) Softy/foamy saddles are for “girly men” and Sunday cyclists who’s idea of adventure is a 10 mile(return) expedition to “Lattes ‘r Us.”
DA BG recommends an all leather saddle. England’s “Brooks” makes one of the best. Several models, Again, they’re not paying me for this glowing endorsement.
The reason a leather saddle is the “bee’s knee’s”,”the cat’s pyjamas”, and the greatest thing since all night pizza, is that it morphs, ab/fab and uniquely to fit yer rear. The bad news is that the morphing process is two weeks of “I’m sitting on a concrete block” hell! But –hang in(actually hang on) there. Cus’ after that….you’ll be ridin’ with a happy butt.
Technically an accessory. But, practically, a necessity!
Mimimum two decent sized(ie –not “Sunday cyclist” size) on the back. Ideally, also,”low riders” – frames that attach to yer front forks supporting two smaller(but not tiny) panniers. These “friends on the front” will not only give you a better balanced “unit”, but are essential to carry all the goodies those friendly foreign folks are gonna be tryin’ to weigh ya down with.
My M.O. is to put all the stuff I don’t use during the day in the front – leaving at last half vacant for the swag! (“Build it, and it will come.”)
Mimimum of two one litre bottles. Or the “camel style” back paks, with “tube feeding” for hand free guzzlin’.
Should ya buy the super spendy insulated bottles? Depends, as always on yer wallet. My experience is that they’re great, for about an hour. (Keep in mind I’m usually in 35-40° celsius heat, every day) Being the boy scout I am, my solution is to freeze the standard (non-insulated) plastic bottles, then tape ‘em with aluminium foil in the a.m.
They’ll defrost slowly, keeping ya cool through most o’ the day.However, as your Nutritionist/Doctor has probably told you, as good as that cold aqua goes down on a boiling day, water does ya the most good at room temperature. (No happy medium here.)
Really jonesin’ to barrel down those country roads in da pitch black? Then lights will definitely decrease yer chances of an unexpected meeting with a Sanglier. (The French wild boar. Think small,hairy Rhinoceros.)
On the bike. And/or around yer ankles. Why not? Inexpensive and practical. (Now there’s a combo ya don’t see often!) And, chances of you cycling in twilight, are much greater than those of “Sanglier surfing.”
Since I’m from the “getting-lost-is-part-of-the-adventure” school, I can’t give ay any….ahem……”guidance” here. A map, a mouth, and half a brain(on a good day,bien sur) usually saves my bacon.
If you’ll be countin’ sheep all night cus’ you don’t know how many kms of adventure you did…….get one. Personally, I could give a rat’s ass. But it is the logical question everyone you meet is gonna ask. I just tell my friendly froggies where I started – and let them do the math!
Unlike those four wheeled metal monsters who offer you the unrivalled thrill of waiting for you part to arrive; or even better, waiting to see if your part even exists, and if so, can be ordered – bike parts are bike parts. A brake cable is a brake cable. In the mall super store, or the back o’ beyond.
That should get ya started on your French Cycling adventure.
Anything I missed?
Christopher Strong is the Creator/Director/Host of the multi-media Lifestyle Adventure series- "Bicycle Gourmet's Treasures of France", and the author of "Gliding to the Bonheur." His behind the scenes story of that filming. Enjoy further French Cycling adventures at : http://bicyclegourmet.com