Old Bike Hand to Newbie Ebiker
I’ve been a cyclist since the womb. Biked all over the place as a schoolboy, amateur, professional, etc, etc. Moved to the French Pyrenees – Department 09 – the sleepy Ariege. For me, with the differing terrain available, an abundance of road and track, it’s a cyclist’s paradise – something for everyone.
Recently added road/gravel ebikes to our collection and been going over well trodden routes on said bike; and it has certainly added a different dimension to the ride.
Here are a couple of routes I’ve done on my Focus Paralane, from HQ, our B&B (bedbreakfastbikespyrenees).
Drive Thru Cave – Mas D’Azil
A boucle, just under 70km or in old money 42miles with a total elevation gain of around 1200m (3900ft)
Riding parallel to an to an old railway track (voi vert) used as a cycle/walking/bridal path, with a slight incline of around 1%, we put the power on at the lowest setting. The ride takes us past a cave system with an underground river – which is open to the public for boat tours – but enough of that we are on the bike! We then start to get on to those beautiful Ariege lanes – meandering through tiny hamlets where they are akin to the land that time forgot.
A third of the way into the ride sometimes we take a slight detour to Lac du Mondely, a narrow, winding, hilly road (up to 6%) leading to the beautiful sapphire lake surrounded by woodland and pastureland; with a little electric assistance, it still gets you feeling the thrill of the ride but without the burn. Brief stop, to admire the view and then back on the road to the cave.
We enter this small ancient town of Mas d’Azil, with cafes and boulangeries randomly placed along the main drag, in itself the town has an interesting past, but we cycle on up the hill, following the river below, heading to the Grotte. Remember to take off the sunglasses as the road approaches the cave – approx 500m in length, lit, with the noise of the river Arize very present – it is so good you have to do it twice!
On the other side a welcome pit stop – a small café offering snacks, meals or just a quick coffee. By the side of the river, looking back to the mouth of the cave.
Refreshed, we take the road and head home, the first few miles of this ride we follow the river, peaceful and fairly flat, no assistance necessary; gauged out rock to the left, old water mills and ancient houses to the right. A few km’s short of home we traverse one of the undulating lanes, with a gradient of up to 9%, but with the electric assistance, the couple of hard km’s are soon eaten up and we are up the climb in no time. With wood and pastureland to the left and the Pyrenean mountains to the right – nourishment for the soul!
Sojourn to Mirepoix
Although we live in the Pyrenees, the great part is that you don’t have to do the mountains there’s plenty of choice to do flatter rides.
Mirepoix is a Medieval walled town, with a square made up of ancient timber buildings and numerous café’s to choose from. One of our favourite times to hit Mirepoix is Monday when there’s a market selling local produce, this small town is alive with a certain buzz in the air, both tourists and locals shop the market or sit and drink coffee watching the busy world go by.
This route is full of history and a little over 80km or 50 miles and 600m of elevation gain, this ride is totally enjoyable doesn’t drain the juice on the battery.
The ride out to Mirepoix is undulating and there is a labrynth of lanes to choose from, during summer the sunflowers are spectacle to behold. You may also see parachutists as you cycle through the lanes.
The first place of interest we reach is Vals – a small hamlet sited on a secondary route of the pilgrimage to the Santiago de Compostela, comprising of probably a dozen houses, café and its famous church – why famous? It’s a semi rupestrian church which means part of it is a cave, it’s also valued for its Romanesque frescos.
We then traverse the route of the pilgrims to Mirepoix. Once there, stop off for a coffee and a people watch.
Back on the bike and homeward bound we leave the ‘hussle and bussle’ and head back to the sleepy backwaters. A little different terrain here, no sunflower filled fields, it’s rock and pastureland with part of the road banked either side by limestone.
We enter a small hamlet Cascade de Roquefort, it’s worth a stop off here to look at the cascade, it’s well hidden off the road but worth the deviation – the best time to view is winter/spring.
And finally, last stretch of the ride to Foix our local town – the jewel in the crown here is the medieval castle. It stands tall above the town on guard. Home is just 10 minutes away so we usually take our time here to stop off, for another refreshment – after all the bike deserves it!
I am loving the Ebike, it is a great change from my normal road bike, and the bigger tyres certainly do make a difference. Thanks for letting me share a couple of rides.
Article and Images Copyright Kev Byers 29 Mar 2021
The Guest article above is by Kev Byers who runs Bedbreakfastbikespyrenees with Bev Hall, for Cycling Holidays & Bike Hire in the French Pyrenees. For more information about this beautiful part of the world visit their website at: https://bedbreakfastbikespyrenees.com/
29 Mar 2021