This is an official route, intended for mountain bikes, that starts in the Morvan (in the Bourgogne region) and runs all the way to the meditteranean. It has it’s own website which provides details of the route and downloadable gpx files to use in your phone or GPS to follow the route. The total distance is 1380 Km and is mainly off-road.

Chris EVANS of Sport Adventure lives in the Morvan and has recently become interested in electric mountain biking (eVTT). He has previously been closely involved with various motorbike racing teams and in particular the Dakar Rally. I have previously participated in some of his events in various parts of France, riding an enduro motorbike and following a pre-defined route using the “road book” system – the same as they use on the Dakar. He posted on Facebook towards the end of last year that he was interested in organising a long distance eVTT event and I asked to be included. However, once the dates were published I found I could only participate in the first seven days as I then had to head off to Spain to compete in the VINCE motorbike event that I enter every year. The total trip would be around four weeks in total so I was only able to experience a quarter of the whole route.

My route – from Avallon to Moulins

I arrived at Chris’ house in the Morvan (he very kindly put us up for the first night) and met the other participants. These were a couple in their 70s (Barry and Ann) and younger chap called Phil. The others were all planning to do the entire trip. I also renewed my acquaintance with Ruud – a very resourceful Dutchman who would be providing support throughout the trip from his van.

The start point in Avallon

Phil and myself were the fittest ones in the group but we only had one battery, so we could only afford to use a low level of assistance on our eVTTs. The other were less fit but had the luxury of two batteries so were able to use much more electrical assistance. It turned out we were all keeping similar pace on the trails, so electric assistance is a great leveller – as long as you plan your battery swaps/recharging. Ruud had a generator in the van just in case recharging was needed during the day.

Some tricky sections on the first day – carrying the bikes over obstacles

Chris had planned the route out in detail, largely using the official routes but with some modifications to link in with suitable accommodation stops – small hotels and Chambre d’hotes. He provided each of us with a GPS loaded with the track for the day, which allowed us to ride independently and manage the battery life, knowing how far to the destination.

Lunch stop – all laid on by Ruud in the support van

I completed 435 Km of the route in my seven days – an average of 62 Km per day, from the start in Avallon to Moulins on the Loire.. The daily routine involved fettling the bikes after breakfast and loading up the route for the day, with planned stops for a picnic lunch and occasionally additional rest breaks in the morning or afternoon. Arriving at the overnight stop mid to late afternoon gave us time to relax and enjoy the new location. Some places even had a pool !

Pool time !

The bikes performed well and the only mechanical issues were on Phil’s bike which had a wheel bearing problem. He took it to a bike shop and it turned out to be a simple adjustment to the bearing free play, rather than a failing bearing, so he was back on the road without losing much time. He also had a problem with the plastic cover of the battery compartment, which fell off and was replaced with some Duct Tape that had to be renewed each day.

Innovation, Technology, Design – missing plastic cover…

We were very lucky with the weather as we didn’t see any rain although it did start to get rather warm as the week wore on. The region we were cycling through was very sparsely populated (Parc du Morvan) and seemed like a part of France that has been ignored by tourism – which didn’t help Chris in is daily quest to find suitable accommodation.

Lunch stop in the middle of the road…

However, the organisation worked perfectly and we always had somewhere to stay – some of the places were actually very nice indeed.

I’ll let the pictures tell more of the story and hopefully put across the fantastic scenery we were cycling through.

Phil splashing through a small stream.
One of the many lakes we encountered.
Cemetry in the woods for the French Resistance…
Treebeard in the woods…
Beautiful woodland trails.
Big views.
Barry and Ann pressing on.
Well deserved beer at the end of the ride.
Some very nice food too…
One of the hotels.
Ann at vanishing point…
Lakeside lunch
Dinner outside at a lovely Chambre d’Hotes with amazing views.
Up at the crack of dawn…
Chris having a splash.
Lunch in the shade – too hot in the sun !
Afternoon tea.
Food truck at a campsite on the Loire.
Another early start to avoid the heat of the day.
It’s this way !
Barry and Ann in the sunflowers.
Ruud taking the night shift in the food truck.
These signs mark the route, but not always easy to spot.