Travel diary : Agen-Vannes

Many things have happened since we left !

Departure on Sunday the 3rd of September 2017 in front of the Café Vélo d’Agen. Many thanks to the brave cyclists who woke up to accompany us for the first kilometers… so much energy gathered to launch this trip! 🙂 Still feeling quite tired from the intense week of preparation that preceded, the stops of that first day were definitely welcomed and appreciated, a deep and warm thanks to our hosts!

On Monday the 4th of September, we meet with the Espace Info Energie of Villeneuve/Lot which provides us with an educational support in our animations and a national network of agencies throughout France on the question of Energy. They hadn’t seen our solar tandem yet, that’s done now. It raised a lot of questions on how it works, what’s the autonomy and why we do that, from both their team and people walking by who stopped to ask some questions. On the roads as well as stopped by it’s side, our transport mean is above all a communication tool that eases exchanges and discussions on energy and life rhythm… 🙂

Once we were finished answering their questions, we took the road once again, aiming at the Dordogne where we were expected. But we couldn’t get out of Villeneuve without being pursued by some more people who had questions too and wanted to see the bike more closely and understand what we are doing.

For the anecdote, just after living the town, the rear chain derailed and we found out that we had lost a nut (probably badly screwed while finishing the preparations in a hurry). Fortunately the bolt was still in place and we got a new nut when stopping at the next garage while maintaining the bolt in place with a piece of string. We screwed it well this time!

In Dordogne, we can assure you, it goes up and down all the time! But the sun is there and we keep going, happy to watch the great landscapes and to meet people! Nice moments spent in good company, always a lot of questions regarding our project, the bike and reflexions about the future of our energy sources… Many thanks to all of you for hosting and welcoming us like that. 🙂

Wednesday the 6th, let’s go for Nantes! Let’s go for the unknown and the hazards of travelling… We had a lot of big days at 100km with important height differences, improvised camping and many encounters! Our solar tandem arouses curiosity and it’s always a pleasure to answer people’s questions and to talk about what’s motivating us to make a positive energy trip. People are really interested by the bike, how it works, if it’s only powered by the solar panels, if we still have to pedal (yes we do ^^), where we come from and where we are heading… there is always a good occasion to start the discussion and it’s a pleasure to meet so many people ready to take some time to stop to exchange for a moment and on all sorts of subjects. We realize how much other people care about those subjects we are espacially concerned about!

In the end the weather wasn’t so good and we decided to slow down a bit to avoid emptying our batteries (the bike’s ones which recharge less, but also ours!). We adapt our rhythm and our speed, so basically our energy consumption, to our production capacity, like the plants adapting their growth to their environment 😉

For the itinerary, we use the GPS in cycling mode. It regularly brings us to dirt roads, sometimes we take them, but this time (just after getting out of the National Park of the Marais de Poitevin) too much mud, too fresh and the bike is too heavy… The mud accumulated below the mudguards and detached one of them which we rolled on before we could react. In the end nothing broken and the weather had gotten better so we were able to fix that calmly after leaving that part of the road.

Arrival in Nantes on Monday the 11th of September to meet the team behind the Energy Observer project, a boat that moves thanks to renewable energies, like us! Their prototype, a real high-tech floating lab, combines various types of energies (hydrogen, solar power, wind power and hydroelectricity) to be less dependant on the meteorological conditions, while we have made the choice to use our own body power to compensate for the uncertainties of solar energy production (and a little bit of wind in our own way, rear wind always helps!). The Energy Observer’s innovation is mostly to test the energy storage through hydrogen which could replace the current batteries. Go check more on their website 😉 We had a great encounter with their team, thanks for welcoming us and congratulations to them for their project! We wish them a lot of sun and wind for their trip.

Then we moved on to St Nazaire to reach Vannes on the 13th of September. But what a day! Windy and rainy all day long, with only clouds wherever you look! Now we have stopped for a few days to prepare the next steps while the batteries are charging in the sun of the Morbihan. “Positive Energy” objective reached for the first part of the trip! What we will remember the most from those first kilometers is how we were welcomed all along the trip by amazing people, offering us a safe and nice place to stop wherever we were to be able to keep going whith energy and motivation, as well as really interesting and enriching conversations!

Technical overview of the first kms : the seats are comfortable and the solar roof offers a great protection, we derailed a few times but that’s no big deal, the left-front tire is completely worn out, probably due to a wrongly balanced braking combined with the important weight of the bike, the windshield is working well but a bit noisy (good point : it also works as a veil with some wind pushing in the right direction), the energy produced was enough to supply the electric assistance and the additionnal devices (phone, gps, light etc.)… and regarding the cyclists, just a few aches the first days but nothing important, it’s all good!

Thanks again to all our hosts who warmly welcomed us and with whom we had a real pleasure exchanging, to all those waving at us on the road and stopping to talk, to all of you who send us messages from the distance, to those who accompany us in this project whatever the distance… Thanks for your encouragements!


See you soon,

SolaR’hythm Team