Tag Archives: mont ventoux

Riding up Mt Ventoux on my Brompton, not once, but three times in a day. Job done.

Brompton and me on way to the top of Mt Ventoux.  This is one of the 3 visits to the summit that I made on 18 June.
Brompton and me on way to the top of Mt Ventoux. This is one of the 3 visits to the summit that I made on 18 June.

I have been lucky enough to have been riding a Brompton for about seven months now.  I say lucky, because this bike really can do it all, as I hope that I have proved by my latest challenge which involved riding up all three roads to the summit of Mt Ventoux in southern France.

A murky summit shot of the Brompton
A murky summit shot of the Brompton

Some say that Mt Ventoux is one of the hardest climbs in France.  Its brutal reputation was enhanced in 1967 when it claimed the life of the famous British cyclist Tommy Simpson, who collapsed and died just 500 metres away from the summit.  Eddy Merckx, arguably the world’s greatest cyclist, required oxygen at the summit after his battle with the mountain in 1970.  Roland Barthes, a French philosopher said, “Ventoux is the god of evil, to which sacrifices must be made. It never forgives weakness and extracts an unfair tribute of suffering.”
For me, the appeal of Mt Ventoux is that you actually ride to the summit.  Most mountain stages on the three of the Grand Tours (Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta d’Espana) ride over “Cols”, the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks, so you are rarely at the summit of a mountain.  This is logical, as why would road builders and engineers build roads up to the top of mountains, when they don’t need to?  Mt Ventoux is different, because the road goes right over the summit and when you are there you are on the roof of Provence, with no other mountains looming over you.  I find this quite a special feature.
So on a wet Friday lunchtime I got on the Eurostar (a train that goes from London to Paris) with my Brompton packed into the Brompton B Bag.  Once in Paris, I used the Metro to travel from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon where I got on the TGV (a French high speed train) to Avignon.  From Avignon it was just a short journey to my start point in Bedoin.  For me, having been a cyclist for many years now, one of the highlights of the Brompton is the ease with which you can take it anywhere; put it on a train, plane or bus, with minimal fuss and hassle, and have a bike with you at your destination.  In fact, according to both Eurostar and the French Railway Authorities, bikes aren’t even allowed on their high speed trains without prior arrangement.  No such issue when travelling with a Brompton.  Nobody even questioned me, with my Brompton safely packed in its B Bag, which conveniently fits into the luggage racks like a suitcase.  And once at your destination, it is a few seconds to unpack your bike and you are ready to ride – so simple.

Don't tell anyone, but there is actually a bike in the bag.  Brompton B Bag #MadeForTravelling
Don’t tell anyone, but there is actually a bike in the bag. Brompton B Bag #MadeForTravelling

On Saturday morning, I set out to ride all the three routes to the summit. My plan was simple:
• Bedoin to the summit
• Descend to Malaucene
• Eat something
• Malaucene to the summit
• Descend to Sault
• Eat something
• Sault to the summit
• Back to Bedoin.
• Eat, shower and sleep!
• Return home
Please excuse my lack of artistic talent, but this was my pictorial representation of what I was going to do.  You will notice that the total ascent in metres was 4400 (14,400ft), which equals a tough mountain stage in the Tour de France.

The plan for the day
The plan for the day

And I have to say that it all went to plan.  I only took one summit shot, as the weather conditions deteriorated throughout the day, going from light drizzle through to thunderstorms with some hail thrown in for good measure.  But actually, the rain had quite a nice cooling effect on the way up and overheating and dehydration were not going to be an issue.
I also stopped to take a photo of the weather station, getting a good view from the ride up from Malaucene.  I could not help thinking that it looks quite like a giant syringe, a touch ironic given cycling’s shady history with doping.

Weather station or giant syringe?  Mt Ventoux
Weather station or giant syringe? Mont Ventoux

And to reinforce the syringe image, I found this poster in Bedoin…

The giant syringe of Mont Ventoux
The giant syringe of Mont Ventoux

I am constantly amazed at what this bike can do.  Mountains, long distance, commuting, travelling, you name it.  This bike can do it all.  With a bit of modification to carry water bottles, I would happily ride this bike anywhere, any distance, any time.

Bottle carriage on a Brompton
Bottle carriage on a Brompton

Yes, it might be slightly heavier than your average road bike, but it is twice as robust and can travel with you anywhere.  Yes, you may get lots of people asking you about it, but that’s what happens when you are riding a fantastic piece of British innovation.  Yes, you might get a few strange looks, but I say “bring it on” and now ask me how far I’m going?  For me, this all adds to its appeal. I have loved bicycles all of my life.  I have quite a few of them.  And do you know what, knowing what a Brompton is capable of, I could probably sell them all and just ride a Brompton for the rest of my life.

#ImPerfect #ThisBikeCanDoItAll
Safely home.  This bike is made for small spaces.
Safely home. This bike is made for small spaces.

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Is that a compact chainset?

Compact chainset - is smaller better?
Compact chainset – is smaller better?

OMG – what is going on?  A compact chainset on my bike.  Have I lost my mind?  Well, no actually, not quite.

It is true, I have put a compact chainset on my bike and am going to be riding it for the foreseeable future.  In my previous post, I talked about Mt Ventoux and my aspirations.  Well, I will be climbing the Giant of Provence in a couple of weeks time, and this compact chainset is going to make my life easier.  We are all into making things easier, aren’t we?

And do you know what?  On my first ride out with my compact chainset this morning it felt fast and good.  Infact, even on the relatively flat roads around my home in Oxfordshire, my average speed was actually slightly faster than previously on my traditional 53×39 chainset.

So I started to look at the gears that I actually used to ride and my favourite gear was always 39 x 15, which I could spin pretty much all day at 90rpm and come out with a speed of 29kph.  Rarely did I use my 53 front ring, as I still had my 14, 13 and 12 to play with on my rear cassette, if I was riding with others.  A 39 x 12 gear ratio at 90rpm gives a pretty respectable speed of about 37kph, good enough on most group rides.

Anyway, I found a really cool tool on the internet, you basically put in your chainset and cassette size, and your rpm and it gives you the speeds for all the gear ratios.  This is a screenshot:

Very little difference top end.  At speeds above 50kph I have usually stopped pedalling and am getting low and aero!
Very little difference top end. At speeds above 50kph I have usually stopped pedalling and am getting low and aero!

The actual site is much cooler and you can hover over the dots to see the speed.  Try it at this link.

So, a compact crankset is more than enough for me.  It also means that I can spin and dance up my local climbs, looking much cooler than grinding up on my old 39 tooth inner ring.  Watch out Alberto Contador (who has also been know to use a compact on some of the mountainous stages of the Tour de France and other races)!

One last thing, for you Weight Weenies out there.  Replacing my old standard crankset with a compact one, has saved my 104 grams in total (88 grams for the crankset and 16 grams for the shorter chain length required for my compact set up).  Boom.  And it didn’t cost me a fortune!

I did also take the opportunity to replace my cables with the awesome Jagwire Elite kit, which are totally cool and are very light indeed.  And it blings up the bike a bit……..

Jagwire bling.
Jagwire bling.

So even based on my initial observations, I think that I might be converted to the way of the compact.  Don’t mock it until you have tried it.  Good luck.






I think that I have found my challenge for 2015……

How exciting, I think I have found my physical challenge for 2015.  It is to do with Mont Ventoux, the “Giant of Provence” which tops out at 1912m and is  a legend in Tour de France history.

Well, I am going to ride it for the first time next month on the way to my summer holidays in Spain.  Then in 2015, I am going to go and become a graduate of the of the Club des Cingles du Mont Ventoux by completing a Bicinglettes degree.  This is an exclusive club, and to date, only 11 British riders have completed it.  Worldwide, this number only swells to 89.

And here is why…….  To become a Bicinglettes degree holder you have to ride up and down all three main roads to the summit, not once but twice.  So six ascents and descents in total, within a day.  This is a 272km day with a 8886m difference in altitude (higher than Everest).  I am going to have to do a lot of studying (training) to get the degree I want, but I know that with plenty of hard work, and a bit of luck, I can do it.

Mt Ventoux