19 Jul La Velodyssee or 4 nutters on bikes!
By Steve Moir, Chairman of the Experts in Property, the largest network of independent estate
agents in the Southwest.
During 2020, myself and a few friends cycled from Cornwall to London and Birmingham. This gave us a taste for touring, and we looked for something bigger. We didn’t fancy Lands’ End to John O’Groats, and someone suggested Roscoff to Santander – around 1,000 miles – so we decided to go for it!
Research then revealed a mostly off-road route called the Eurovelo 1 (EV1), also known as La Velodyssee, or The Atlantic Cycling Route. After much planning, four of us (myself, interior designer Garry Middleton-Batts, Plymouth property specialist John Coulton, and heating engineer Andy Russell) set off on our bike-packing adventure.
We had plotted routes on our Sat Nav’s but, amazingly, as soon as we left Roscoff the route was signposted, and we found that it’s just about possible to navigate the route without even a map!
We covered between 50 and 80 miles per day. Despite riding gravel bikes and being equipped with minimal kit, 80 miles off-road in one day was enough! Lots of other touring cyclists were using parts of the route, many on electric bikes.
After riding through the green hills of Brittany we enjoyed rolling forest trails before we entered the wetlands of the Vendee, with its amazing birdlife and scenery. We then followed the coastline through beach resorts and deserted villages. Sometimes, finding cafés and food was a challenge in itself, forget cycle shops!
We then entered the forests, which meant mile after mile of straight tracks and nothing but trees in ever-increasing heat. Heatstroke & sunburn was a risk and so it proved with our arrival in La Rochelle for a rest day, leaving one of our team in bed recovering.
We rebooked our lodgings and a budget of £25 per person meant a wide variety of accommodation from sheds to mobile homes and hotels. Some of them were memorable and we will stay again.
Before catching the Royan-Le Verdon ferry, we visited Marennes and had the most amazing seafood meal at L’Ecume de Mer before heading onto Arcachon Bay, where we took our third ferry, across the bay from the beautiful Le Cap Ferret and onto more stunning beaches, lakes & forests near Bordeaux.
We then ploughed on to Biarritz just as the earliest recorded heatwave hit the area. A recovery day put us in good stead to head off the EV1 and towards the Pyrenees – strangely, we were looking forward to it!
After navigating around the Spanish border, temperatures rose over 40 degrees, and we had a 15-miles climb into the mountains! Here, we saw large numbers of more serious club cyclists as we ascended the pass. A mountain hotel with stunning views was a welcome sight at the end of the climb.
We reaped the rewards the next day with a lot of descending to Bilbao. We stayed in refurbished University accommodation, amongst the best rooms on the trip. With half a day spare, we visited
the Guggenheim Museum and Bilbao old town.
Bemoaning the lack of cycle lanes the previous day, we now had a cycle superhighway from Bilbao right out to the coast and beaches. We rode the cliff tops amid amazing scenery, swam in remarkably warm seas and met many Santiago Compostela walkers. Our last day was a short one of just 30 miles, riding through verdant green pastures with two more small ferries, the final one taking us right to the Santander ferry, and home.
Would we recommend it? 100% yes. Make sure your bikes are well serviced, take as little kit as possible, and download useful free apps such as Komoot & Cyclestreets. If anyone is interested, we can supply our kit list and itinerary.
There are also options when you get to Biarritz, some we met got the train back to Roscoff, others got a narrow-gauge train towards Santander.
I guess the only question left for us now is …. Where next…?