Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter Ride

For lack of time, I haven't put online the results of the first tests of the QNT. But I can already say that my first impressions are more than positive.

Here are some photos of the brillant winter tricycle-touring ride in the Ecrins National Park on February 13-15 (organised by Alain, along with Christine, Gabriel and Anne-Do, Jacques, and me of course) :

Me on the left (I know, not easy to recognize),
Christine and Anne Do in the foreground

Me, Anne Do and Jacques

(Anne Do and Christine in the foreground,
Gabriel and Jacques in the background)

Base camp : Desert in Valjouffrey

Beautiful sunset above the camping spot

Warming up as we can around a camp fire

Everyone has their own technique to take the tricycle back up to the road

We left from Moulin Vieux (just after the Alpe du Grand Serre coming from Sechilienne) for those who know the area), and rode to Desert in Valjouffrey, some 50km way. Hilly roads, but not too hard, on quiet country lanes, clear of snow most of the way. Still a fair climb at the end of the day. Some packed snow on the road and a little bit of ice here and there, but only on flat portions or downhills. No problem of traction (no spinning of the rear wheel) contrary to what i had thought. Probably the weight of the luggage improves the grip. The tricycle behaves brilliantly. Better anticipate braking though, especially before bends, or skidding off the road is garanteed. Stability is amazing (easy racing down around 40 km/h on hard snow/ice). This trip would have been impossible on a 2 wheel-bike without falling off a dozen times.

Camping at a spot called "desert" (just below the last village up the valley). Beautiful sunset. It's bloody cold, but everyone's got good equipment. Alain lights a comforting fire, enabling us to melt the frozen water in our bottles, and warming our hands and feet. Starting the stoves is problematic. My Camping Gaz stove dies. An aging hose on a multifuel snaps with the frost. Fortunately, Alain's Primus works brilliantly, it will be used by the whole group. Lesson learnt : it's better to have a good fuel stove in working order and checked, and a 2nd one for back-up if possible.

Hard to get out of the sleeping bag in the morning. –17°C, it's bloody freezing! After a hefty breakfast and some hot tea, we fill the thermoses and set off. The first long downhill from Valjouffrey feels bitterly cold. Every inch of skin left uncovered is immediately cryogened. My down jacket makes miracles, but I have to ride with my big snow boots on (I kept the inner boot warm in the sleeping bag during the night) because the cycling shoes + overshoes prove insufficient in spite of the supposedly warm Merino socks. I'm gonna have to seriously think about the pb because Western Tibet might be a tiny bit cold (-10/-20°C in October) !!!

The snow we had encountered on some portions on Saturday had completely melted when we passed on Sunday. Good thing as the climb back up to Sievoz would have been a tiny bit tricky had there been snow on the road. Back home at dusk. A jolly good weekend.

No technical pb except a loose roulette wheel on one of the trikes (not mine ;-)) but it had nothing to do with the cold. No frozen cable nor derailleur (though the trikes slept outside in the snow). Only Jacques had a studded rear tyre onhis Challenge.

(Thanks to Alain for his photos, I had unfortunately forgotten the batterie for my camera!).

More update when I find the time…