From Bike Commuting To SunTrip
Independently solar-powered bicycle
This book is translated from the original French, Du Vélotaf au Sun Trip.
English version by Elena Idone LinkedIn.
This is a J’me Recycle book. J’me Recycle association aims to promote the use of bicycles. J’me Recycle Publishing is the act of publishing an in-progress ebook using lightweight tools and many iterations to get readers' feedbacks in order to improve the book.
This book is for sale at https://jmerecycle.fr. You can give what you want.
© 2020 Laurent Souchet
I received the almost final version of Laurent’s book at the beginning of December 2019, fifteen months after the end of the Sun Trip 2018. It is the time to digest an extraordinary event. Time to put on paper the memories of the adventure of a lifetime.
This book is a beautiful gift for me. It reflects Laurent’s unexpected and successful participation.
Fans of the Sun Trip will find a story in a direct tone, full of information and unpublished anecdotes. The adventure told from the inside, without filters and without prittle-prattle. There is nothing more true.
People tempted by the idea of one day taking up the challenge will find a lot of advice, to prepare themselves and to move forward into the unknown. There is no doubt that this book will be useful for many, that it will make dreams come true.
From Bicycle commuting to Sun Trip really sums up the image I have of Laurent and his participation. The Sun Trip came as an UFO in his life. And he simply catched the ball, to see what there was at the end of the road, at the end of himself. The Sun Trip as an alibi to take on the world. I think it’s perfect. I couldn’t have asked for better.
A morning in mid-August 2018, at the other end of Eurasia, which is very large, I found Laurent the day of arrival. If usually people are in state of exaltation, in tears, or elated by the events experienced, he was calm and peaceful. He had clear ideas, summarized in two sentences kept during the editing of the film of the edition.
Leaving home has changed me. The Sun Trip has changed my vision of the world, in a positive way!
He had come a long way and was eager to find his people, certainly to tell them.
Thank you Laurent.
From bicycle commuting
— Go ahead and touch me some more! Don’t you want to run me over while you’re at it?
No, I’m not in China, I’m just in Lyon on the RN6 on a section of road that narrows from two to one lane, before approaching yet another roundabout! These brave motorists in such a hurry shouldn’t be a bit forced to reduce their speed or else they’ll take the roundabout in a straight line, shouldn’t they!
I can say today that cycling in Lyon is a good training to ride to China. With one or two exceptions that we’ll see later (see Almaty and Urumqi in the section on cities).
Is death to be expected when one travels seven thousand kilometres a year on a bike in all weathers? The answer is yes. I always say that I’ll have to get run over for there to be a development in place but I doubt it! I once saw a cyclist on Bron lying on the ground just a minute after impacting a car. I’m really not sure if she survived… And the pedestrian crossing has not had its signs reinforced to indicate the passage of a bicycle path on this shared pedestrian crossing!
Is the bicycler commuting a suicidal being or is he more aware of the interest of cycling for his physical and moral health on a daily basis?
I always have fun riding my bike to work, even when work isn’t a pleasure…
Cycling, despite the stress it can cause through the vigilance it requires, brings an immediate physical benefit in the effort. And that feeling of knowing the weather intimately! In the morning I only have to open the window to know how to dress. As people from the north say, there is no bad weather, there is only bad clothes.
— One, two or three layers of clothes today?
— Shorts or pants?
My nose, my eyes, my body temperature sensors are here to tell me.
I live better when I ride my bike than when I go to work by car, by scooter 125 or even by bus. The only thing I miss is that I can’t take anyone with me on the bikes I use and the volume of transportable shopping is more limited. But how many times did I need to drive someone to work over the years? Maybe once!
The biker who is leaving the city, the five-seven kilometres zone around the heart of the city, at a glance, which I would call the little crown, is quickly taken for a fool! Or even a pain in the butt that fries the lights and slows down motorist at the roundabouts, narrowing, on single-track vehicle.
— You can’t be seen when it’s dark, it’s too dangerous to ride a bike!
Yes, I have already done some one-way exchanges with my four-wheeled friends! I think it should be mandatory to pass the bike license at the same time as the car license, with for example five hundred kilometres to ride a bike in the city to get your car license. This would allow to balance discussions and will bring perhaps more understanding.
The weak is always wrong, same principle between the bicycle and the car.
A bicycler commuting is more than ridiculous from a motorist’s point of view. Sometimes people tell you you’re brave… It’s not only in politics that words are mocked. I always hear crazy instead of brave, otherwise wouldn’t they come to show their courage in turn and add to the flow of cyclists?
I sometimes get angry and bang on the hood of a car (it doesn’t damage the vehicle but it makes enough noise to get the message across that I exist and I’m not happy) when I narrowly escaped an accident. As I get older I try to be more and more serene and to reduce these little indelicate gestures… but I also don’t want to fall on a bad day.
In ten years I have seen increasing the number of cyclists in Lyon’s inner suburbs. With the rise of electric bikes, bicycles are now accompanied by electric scooters, single-wheelers and skateboards. But outside the inner suburbs, very very little has changed, despite the price of fuel, which in my humble opinion is still not high enough to dissuade people from using their cars for the Car commuting.
Would I be taken more seriously if, instead of driving 7000 kilometres a year from home to work, I drove that distance to China?
The answer is yes, and that’s strange! I must admit, however, that that many kilometres in a straight line (following the curve of the Earth) rather than going in circles in its microcosm remains a small personal adventure that is quite enriching in terms of human and geographical discovery. Enough to write a few pages of memory of this sweet dream that is the trip from Lyon to Canton on a solar bike.
Without this preparation as cyclist from Lyon for several years now, my little Lyon-Canton adventure would certainly not have been possible, due to a lack of sufficient physical training and experience to endure the roadsides frequented by trucks, buses and other vehicles with four or more wheels.
The daily bicycle commuting serves as basic training to survive on busy roads and to know how to cover oneself in all weathers.
It’s as if I had prepared myself for this sweet dream of travelling on a solar-powered bicycle without knowing it.
But then again, I had to know about The Sun Trip Lyon-Canton.
To The Sun Trip
— What the hell is The Sun Trip?
The Sun Trip, what the hell is that?
The Sun Trip is, first of all, an idea germinated in the mind of Florian Bailly during a solo trip to Japan. He was able to rally people to his idea of organizing a collective solo trip inspired by what exists in sailing.
I’d like to take this opportunity to show you a part of the fine organization team for the Sun Trip 2018. Florian Bailly, Angélique Galvaing, Guillaume Devot, Cédric Vinatier, Anick-Marie Bouchard, Olivier Reginensi.
But before coming to this picture, I remember I came across the site The Sun Trip one day in March 2017, I can’t say by what chance but what I remember is the shock it gave me. A shiver in my body. An accessible dream where I could apply?
— A solar bike as vehicle?
— Does it exist and did some already make a great trip with it?
Departure from Lyon and this since 2013. A big trip every two or three years and I wasn’t even aware of it! And I thought that with Twitter and Facebook we didn’t miss anything anymore!
After the surprise and a moment of reflection, I saw a way to go further, faster with a bike powered by electricity. It was announced the start of a race in 2018, starting in Lyon, arriving in China in a city that I had not yet noticed.
That China where I never imagined I would go one day. And passing through Kazakhstan, which I didn’t even know existed! I felt tinging of pleasure imagining myself registering, building a solar bike, leaving once again for a bivouac, after thirty-five years without having done it again since my little Paris-Holland-Paris trip, lasted one summer month, when I was young and reckless. And to leave at fifty-three years of age is not a big deal today, but it’s not really being young anymore.
I quickly thought of the things that were not very clear or even stupid! Why using solar panels to recharge an electric battery? Wouldn’t the weight of the panels and the material needed to carry and operate the panels be self defeating compared to just an electric bike that you would recharge as you went along on sockets? Do we really have to go through desert areas to justify the use of an autonomous vehicle, as if we were in an end-of-the-world period where the use of electricity would no longer be assured? Or if the weight is not too much of a disadvantage, what impact will the weather have on recharging? What impact on the manoeuvrability of a two or three-wheeled bicycle if you take two to four photovoltaic panels with you? How to repair in case of breakdown?
As two editions had already taken place, in 2013 and then in 2015 with several dozen participants, who some came back for the third time in 2018, and that a professor of IUT had won the 2015 event, I thought that there was perhaps a way that the advantage of recharging by riding compensates for the overweight and that there was only one way to find it out: to try it!
My curiosity wasn’t enough to explain my desire to try. I also wanted to get out of my comfort zone and out of my bicycle commuting-work-asleep routine. Even though I like most of the time these three things in my life, a repetitive job done for 25 years in the same company, push me to get some fresh air before I got too old or fragile. And a few key words in this trip were there to reinforce my decision to try the registration.
Photovoltaics first, in which I’m believing since 2007; ten years earlier I had installed a solar roof to produce electricity without having nothing else to do but check the electrical panel after a storm and read the meters once a month, or even once a year, to ask for payment for my production.
Then there’s the bicycle, which I’ve always appreciated. The bicycle was my first vehicle (after the stroller). The autonomy and the freedom to ride around my neighbourhood, enlarging the tour as I went along and I wasn’t yet 10 years old. The bicycle was used during my adolescence, to go to school, to meet my family members, to go for a few rides alone or in a group. Then as an adult, the useful side of the bike I use to go to work and my main vehicle for almost 7000 kilometres a year. The term of the moment is bicycle commuting when used in this way, probably to distinguish it from the weekend sports cyclist.
Russia and other Russian-speaking countries such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan: countries to consider when you travel to China. This strengthened my choice to study Russian just I entered the 4th grade in French college, when I was a rather mediocre student. Russian had attracted me more than Spanish, which was considered easier for students like me! I have never regretted this choice, even if I am still so mediocre in foreign languages. The small group that we were, the teacher who was a good pedagogue and the trip to Russia that we had successful arranged, left me with a good impression of the language, of the country and of its people.
But there were still some troubles: how could I manage the separation from my family for several weeks or even months, I hardly ever left? What would be the cost of the operation? How could I get away from work without problems? Am I credible for such an adventure?
Tell me, Florian, do you see me as a candidate?
The first step of the project was to be accepted by Florian Bailly, the designer of the Sun Trip, which was already in its third organization of solar bike trips from Lyon to Eastern Europe for the first two editions and for the first time in the depths of Asia.
How to approach it? Am I credible for such an adventure? Even though I hadn’t made a bivouac for thirty-five years, even if I have a very poor command of foreign languages, that means I find difficult to ask even for help, in case I need to find an item in a store, even if I sleep badly at night, even if I often look forward to disastrous scenarios…
So I don’t use a short text to present my application, writing is the means I master at the best, so I might use my favorite tool as well: the text message. A little text where I announce the colour, I’m a bicyclist commuting and I’ve done some bivouac and a main solo bike trip (the word is close to solar isn’t it?) thirty-five years ago! And I added that I was working at Orange.
Florian’s answer, didn’t take long to come.
— A big YES !
So cool his answer in three words. First step passed successfully, even if I thought the word Orange might have been a big part of the immediate answer! We’ll see later that I wouldn’t succeed in getting the Orange company to join my little adventure, even if the hope had helped me to prefer the orange colour. Orange to be seen on the road and orange for which company I’ve been consacrating my working days for almost half of my life. That’s why the bike, the trailer, the frames supporting the photovoltaic panels, the jacket and the neck warmer were orange.
Later on, in moments of doubt, I will have the opportunity to talk to Florian again.
Florian always knew how to find the right and necessary words to encourage me in this project.
Christel, what do you think?
— Cricri d’Amour, would you see me leaving for a few days on my bike…to go to China?
I had to speak to my wife about this project, at lunch or dinner, or even in the morning. I already don’t remember. That means that there was no immediate reaction(s). It took a few explanations, arguing in favour of the Sun Trip and going smoothly. The main argument was that I could back out at any time, even if it meant being a wimp or someone inconsequential, a living room dreamer.
I was given the counter-arguments right from the start when I read the adventure rules.
— What’s that? The organization is only present at the beginning and at the end? What do they do then?
— Yes, that’s the principle of adventure, you’re alone or in a team. The organization takes care of the promotion and the accommodation at the departure and arrival. A remote support can be given, but you have to plan your repatriation insurance.
— But is this thing a cult?
— Yes, and the guru is Florian, who puts money in his pockets and takes advantage of the faithful. By the way, look, there are some followers who are coming back for the second or third time starting in 2018. But don’t worry, we’ll have a preparatory weekend and I’ll be able to see the degree of sectarianism that governs the group. In my opinion, it’s no worse than the Tour de France sect. The question is rather what degree of competitiveness is needed? Do you need sponsors to be able to benefit from a solar vehicle worthy of this competition, do you have to be young and in great physical shape?
— And how are you going to manage your diet? I’m the one who prepares all the meals and does the shopping.
— Really…you’ll have to come with me then! Are you ready to travel two hundred kilometres a day?
— And how can we stand this separation?
— That’s a good question! Will you meet me in Almaty, before we enter China? There’s no need for a visa, a passport is enough.
That’s the initial exchange. The famous acceptance cycle of sorts. At the end, my wife followed and participated in all phases of the preparation. She accompanied me to the various important appointments that marked the preparation of the trip.
My wife, who knew how to talk about my project to Patrick Gouttenoire, a welder, who was my first fan and who supported me from the moment I announced my registration, without fail all along the way.
My wife, who knew how to support a guest Suntriper, with whom I had established a relationship of exchange for the joint preparation of the Sun Trip and which proved a little invasive, even imperative.
My wife, who accompanied me to the meetings of professionals with a well marked temperament like Céline Trousseau from the boutique Cyclociel in Villeurbanne, from Christian Touzé, designer of the carbon trailer, the CTZ 100 litres, that we met in Vaumeilh near Sisteron, from Guillaume Devot from Declic-Eco, great installer of the Sun Trip’s solar vehicles, that we met in Saint Mitre les Remparts.
My wife with whom we tested the sharing of accommodation between cyclists with the help of the organization Warmshowers.
And the trip to Italy, near Turin, to meet Solbian for the solar panel equipment.
I even made a video in English to explain my need to Tom Nostrant, creator of the Click-Stand, the telescopic cane used to complement or replace the original stand which is often too small and too light to support a solar bike.
In short, even though my wife far prefers four-wheels vehicles, and has a bus driver’s license, she knew how to let me live this adventure that was going to disrupt our daily lives a bit.
And our three children: Sylvain, Lucie and Aurélie followed their mother’s example and the solar adventures closely. I was supported by my family from the beginning to the end. I had moments of doubt during the trip and I was able to call them on the phone and I was always encouraged.
Now that the trip went well, Christel, what do you think of the Sun Trip adventure?
— I’m proud of you my darling!
Orange, colleagues, shall I go?
I’m an IT specialist at Orange, I spend my days coding IT management applications in back, front or mobile, as they say at the moment. We work on a set and everyone’s life sweats a little on each one. If on top of that you like to talk about yourself, then your colleagues follow your life a little. That’s how my colleagues quickly became aware of my registration and my preparation for the Sun Trip.
But above all, I had to inform my hierarchy and human resources of the need to be absent for three consecutive months from mid-June to mid-September. Could I be absent from work for three months without risks? The answer in a large company like Orange is rather yes. It’s fairly easy to be absent for three months if you’re not indispensable, but you still need to plan it well in advance to notify your line manager(s), the human resources department you report to.
How can you ask for about sixty days of leave? There are several possibilities, either to have set aside days of leave not consumed in previous years on a time savings account if your company allows it, or to deposit an unpaid leave.
With an unpaid leave you get plucked financially. For my part, I had planned something, a trip with my wife, some kind of adventure before I got too old, in for two or three years. By adding the current year’s leave in 2018 and the leave from my time savings account, I was able to deposit the three months needed for the trip and a few extra days to cushion the return to work and spend time with my family after the long separation.
The organization of the Sun Trip allowed a maximum of 100 days to reach the final city in China, otherwise I would not be able to repatriate the bike. The adventure is a one-way trip, the return of our body is at our convenience and our charge, only the bike is taken care of by a return in a container on the train of the new Silk Roads. I wanted at all costs to be within this maximum limit of one hundred days. I looked at the score obtained by the first to arrive in Astana in 2013, Raf Van Hulle, who also came second in 2015. I told myself that given the sporting level of the winner, who was much more highly trained than I was, and given the evolution of the solar panels and batteries, I could consider to be at the same level than Raf in 2013, with two hundred kilometres per day on average. On a forecast route of 12000 kilometres and five days of surplus due to hazards breaks, customs, bad weather, illness, I was thus forecasting sixty-five days, which gave me time to recover and find the family before going back to work. Strangely enough, this is exactly the number of days it would take me to reach Canton.
In order not to risk on the return to work, in the department that we temporarily leaving, theoretically you should not exceed three months, otherwise they could very well offer you another service. And after a year’s absence, it’s definitely more restrictive in theory, since you could be offered another position in the geographical area. In practice, the IT department in which I work would not have been a problem. My proximity manager, my n+2 and n+3 once I was made aware of my rather crazy project, granted me permission to be out of office without difficulties, on condition that I finished the various work in progress before leaving and that I passed on the information for the maintenance of the rare applications for which I was not sharing the responsibility. One of the advantages of working in a team on a computer development and sharing information is that you can take a rest without compromising the smooth running of the project.
The closer the departure approached, the more nervous I became. I had to finish three applications, one I was maintaining alone, developed in AngularJs front-end and Node.js back-end, a second one in Java back-end and Android mobile and iOS back-end which had to evolve at the infrastructure level to follow the security evolutions around https exchanges. And a third one, a new mobile application with Java and Php back-end, which was developed by four people. A new mobile application, for our customers in the store, which had to be delivered quickly to participate in an internal competition, the Prime Zone Cup. It was a bit stressful, the days were a bit long but at the end the timing was respected. And I had the great surprise of receiving an SMS on my bike during the Lyon - Guangzhou trip of the successful participation in the Orange internal competition. We were in the top three and had won the Prime Zone Cup 2018! An individual gift in the form of a study trip or computer equipment worth €3,000 each! And that’s how, on my return from China, I was able to ask for a Mac Book Pro with which I wrote this book in particular.
Any news about a possible job promotion? There was nothing to the horizon but if not, you have to make a choice: to enjoy life inside or outside the company? And some losses on the individual bonus for the second half of 2018, yes it will be the case, but the impact is minimal.
There could also be a trouble on the atmosphere at work of colleagues who are left behind for a while before or after leaving. The relationship at work is something thin and delicate, especially when you work on a set of twenty people where intimate life is easily shared or contemplated. A little thing can put you on the side of the guy you want to avoid. This trip was more than an opportunity to be seen in a positive light. The crazy and questioned side was rather a positive element on the relational side, even if I really drove crazy my colleagues drunk with my preparation. It was rare at lunchtime in the canteen that I didn’t address one element of the trip. On the way back, work resumes quickly and you have to know how to come back and show that you haven’t lost any know-how, even if it means spending more hours at the beginning to get back to the niche of a new project, that requires you to regain knowledge of the functional and technical aspects of the project.
During the preparation period, I had more support from my colleagues than I expected. I was helped with the organization of the trip, because around me there were long-time travellers: cyclists, motorcyclists, walkers who have surveyed the land far more than I would ever do and in unusual places. Their advice, the factual elements to prepare the trip and their encouragements have been a great help and a great help to me. It is about survival on the trip, first of all, and the ease with which the trip can be made. Preparation is important because you have to think from the small bandage to the identity papers. The mental projection of the trip as a whole that can be made by the stories you hear, read or discover on Internet is important to see what is still missing in the mental and physical preparation.
Without my colleagues I would have been less well prepared.
Hi folks! Guess?
August 2017… June 2018
— Do you know what? I’m going to China with some other crazy solar-powered bicycle freaks!
First the surprise:
Then the disbelief:
— But are you going for a year? With Christel?
No one was really surprised that I started this trip. It seemed to stick to me like a glove, to the outside view that friends wear on me.
It’s true that I’ve frequented a bit the horse world thanks to my children. A world that understands passion.
And that’s how I received encouragement and support from all sides.
I was surprised at the general interest that was generated. The culture of cycling and adventure in France is more important than I thought.
What about me?
— Now that I’ve told everyone that I’m going to Canton on a solar-powered bike, I have no choice or it’s a lifetime of shame!
I envisioned the trip on an impulse that probably came from afar.
Telling everyone that we’re going to make the trip is a way of persuading ourselves that we’re going to do it, it becomes concrete from the moment you consider it out loud and not in a semi-dream in the evening in your bed.
I would go through periods of doubt about my ability to carry out the preparation and the trip. But doubts are my life. I had doubts about having a stable job, I had doubts about having a family and being responsible enough, I had doubts about having a house one day…
Doubt doesn’t prevent you from acting, it does, on the contrary, it brings you some restless nights!
I could write that I travelled Chamonix-Canton trip in sixty-five days on a solar bike, but sometimes I still doubt that I did it, I am obliged to look at my photos, and yes, it comes back to me, the meetings and the roads! Maybe one more reason to write this book, to keep a trace before forgetting.
Tackling preparations is like managing a mini project. Cut and classify in order of priority and dependences. For this, I usually use a Kanban that I’ve been recommending for years, namely Trello. The tool makes it easy to organize note cards by theme. A theme is represented by a column and each card has a note in which you can write a lot of information, so as one or more lists to check. Very practical with its web and mobile version that synchronize very quickly and can be read again even without a network, so easy to consult during your trip.
Manage the preparations like a mini project!
When you prepare an adventure trip every thirty-five years, you have to rediscover everything. I better understand that some people go back on a trip regularly: it allows you to pick up where you left off and do better the next time.
The right questions
— Will you go through Turkey?
— What are you riding with? How much does your car weigh?
— Are you bringing tools to fix it?
— How do you sleep?
— Do you take food with you?
— Do you need visas? And if you have an accident, how do you deal with it?
— Aren’t you afraid of getting sick or being bitten by a dog?
— How do you pay?
— Do you take an international mobile plan or a SIM card to each country?
— Are you sure you are physically able?
— Do you have a blog, do you have sponsors?
— Do you take a GPS, do you have a tag to follow you?
— Are you going to visit a bit?
— Are you sure you can speak English everywhere?
— Do you speak Chinese?
— Sincerely, it’s not possible you can arrive!
The passage through Kiev
— Are you taking the north road or the south road?
I quickly made the choice between the Northern or Southern route.
I did not see myself passing through Turkey, I was afraid of badly lit tunnels; the accident of 2013 are not playing in favour of this route.
And then the fastest route is by the north. When you want to go fast and you don’t want to go to visit the historic Silk Road, then you go north. This was the choice of a large number of Suntripers.
As a reminder, the Earth is a globe and the straight line of a Google Maps map is not the shortest way. However one can find the vision of the globe of the Earth with Google Maps on computer by making a long zoom out until seeing the spherical planet.
And to begin I invite you to test your favorite mapping software, Google Maps or other, and try to establish a route between Lyon and Canon (Guangzhou if you want to be up to date).
Bad luck, the Chinese borders are closed for Google Maps and other maps!
And there I was only thinking about the car ride, so the bike ride, so that you have to cut the trip in two parts at least.
Here is an essential element to prepare. You will be able to get a more precise idea of the trip from my actual route.
It is convenient and comforting to prepare your route in advance with several possible options but in detail it is clearly impossible to plan each stage in advance. Are we going to do 100, 200, 300 kilometres a day, every day? Impossible to predict.
The route in detail has never been finalised. We had to adapt during the trip.
Rather, I invite you to plan the main crossing points, cities, rivers (or mountains if you are a fan of mountains like Michael Polak) and especially border crossings. Typically, the crossing point to enter China by bike has been a point under discussion for a while before becoming the crossing to take, and so Korghos has imposed itself. Starting from there, if we do the same for the border crossings of Ukraine, which has war zones with Russia and similarly with Kazakhstan, we find ourselves with restricted choices of crossing. But between these points choices are possible, except in Kazakhstan where we find ourselves with a single road to reach Almaty.
Once these border-crossing points have been set, it is important to estimate a range of dates when the visa is required. I am thinking in particular to Russia. For this we must estimate the number of kilometres that we think we will travel at the minimum and maximum per day in order to estimate the range of days when we will cross the border that requires the visa stamped on the right date.
For Russia, if you arrive at the border crossing earlier than your entry date, you will have to wait for the famous date indicated! And for the exit it is even worse: you have to leave before the exit date indicated on the visa, otherwise you will be sent to prison awaiting your judgment and you will not be able to return to Russia before five years. This is the experience of Romàn Neauport: he spent two days in prison awaiting his trial which was held with an English teacher, who translated!
For Russia take a thirty-day visa, even if fifteen days seems wide!
Romàn tested for you the fifteen-day visa. And he will not be back for the Sun Trip until 2023, if he wants to cross Russia! He has been banned from entering Russian territory for five years.
The bad weather caused delay. The beginning of the route surprised all the Suntripers. Standing rain and cold for several days in a row forced us to reduce our daily distances and therefore the date of entry into Russia. And that’s how we find us at the exit of Russia with one day delay compared to the date of our visa. Rather than letting you out and advice you how to avoid mistakes again, it seems that in Russia keeping in prison for a few days is a norm. This is how Bernard and Yann Cauquil and I found Romàn on the road at the entrance of Kazakhstan, while he was well ahead of us.
To obtain a Russian visa in Lyon, I went through Lyon visa. In their premises, there is an instant camera; a photo is necessary for the Russian visa but it must be different from the passport photo, so if you thought you could reuse the one from your brand new passport, you were wrong! I first pre-filled my information on the Lyon visa website following their tutorial and then I went there. In twenty minutes the formalities were done and a few weeks later I received the visa.
The route is therefore points of details of border crossings, and points with large mesh, a list of countries, then a list of cities and then you refine if you go by the river along, which allows you to consider a minimum difference in altitude, or through the mountains, if you are a fan of climbing like Michael Polka.
How to prepare your GPX routes? I could propose several sites but I think it’s better to keep looking because I haven’t found any site that can be a unique reference. On the other hand, in 2018 I strongly advise against using Google Maps for biking to create your route. At the very least you can use it in car version, but in bike version it’s the best way to find yourself in passages impossible to cross.
Most of us used OsmAnd on an Android phone to view the day’s route. Maps are downloadable in advance due to the size and are usable offline. Note that there is an extension that also allows you to see the elevation difference but beware: the elevation differences are not completely reliable and you really need to zoom in to see the differences in elevation, otherwise you’ll quickly be led to believe that there are none! It’s John and the Colle brothers who let me discover this option on OsmAnd during the last days of the trip. The forecasts on the difference in altitude of the day are like the weather forecast in France! To be taken with a margin of error. That’s how the young people were announcing me some flat zones which I found rather hilly!
I’d bought a second-hand Garmin, but the small size of the screen and the lack of freedom to choose maps outside Europe let me prefer the smartphone. But watch out for the choice of smartphone: I went for a Samsung Galaxy S8, I wasn’t disappointed. It must be robust and visible in bright light, also hold as much water as possible.
— Where do you buy your solar bike?
— I take the mechanic option (option C) and I call my next travelling companion: Silky One like The Silk Road and One like the first one (you never know, there might be a second one).