GILL’S VELO VOYAGE
This month, we’re diving into the Vélo Voyage that Gillon Hunter completed in July this year to raise awareness and funds for our cause at Montagne Verte.
Gill cycled over 800km from Morzine to Arcachon, climbing 9260m in just 5 days (finishing a day earlier than originally planned) and managed to raise €1415 for Montagne Verte in the process. What a champion!
We caught up with Gill (just not out on the bike ride unfortunately), to talk about the trip and get the insider details to share with you.
We hope you find his thoughts and findings as interesting as we did.
WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO EMBARK ON THIS CYCLING CHALLENGE?
“At first, the idea sprung from simply wanting to ride my bike more. I recently moved to Morzine (well, Montriond), and I thought “this is a great opportunity to raise some funds for an environmental cause.” To make it a real challenge I wanted to set a goal of crossing the whole of France in 5 days. After the first donation came in, there was no turning back.
As well as collecting donations, I wanted to raise awareness that it’s never ‘too far’, ‘too long’, or ‘too hard’ to ditch the car and take the bike. In the same way, it’s never too hard to take the train rather than the plane.”
WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE TRIP, PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY/MENTALLY?
“Mentally the biggest challenge was the doubt that comes into your mind before you even get started. I’d never taken on that big a physical challenge before, so I wasn’t sure how far I was capable of riding and how fast my body would recover each day. But it was just a case of breaking down the challenge into manageable chunks.
I did a fair amount of training for many months before the trip. Plenty of road miles, a bit of physio with Mountain Rehab and some Pilates with Georgie at Studio Pilates Morzine set me up well physically. Oh, and no amount of padding in your shorts can stop the pain in you know what!”
HOW DO YOU THINK ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO TAKE UP CYCLING CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE AND HELP THE ENVIRONMENT?
“As everyone (hopefully) knows… not only does it help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, it also helps reduce air pollution, congestion, noise, reduces the risk of heart disease, improves health, reduces stress and so on. I think you just have to look at some of the Nordic countries to see how embracing travel by bike is improving life over there.
I think e-bikes could change the way we travel locally. I would love to see Morzine invest in the infrastructure for electric bikes and docking stations, adding safer cycle lanes (from Morzine to Les Gets for example), car-free zones and partnering with other towns to move people around on bikes as much as possible. Combine that with better, bike-equipped public transport (bike racks on electric buses for example) and we’ll surely see a larger uptake in the number of people willing to leave the car at home.
Plus, riding bikes is way more fun!
But all that said, bikes alone aren’t going to fix the problems. We need a complete worldwide transport revolution if we are to meet the targets needed to limit warming. In many ways, there has never been a greater need for innovation, so we are going to see some interesting developments in our lifetime.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR CYCLISTS LOOKING TO EMBARK ON A TOUR, SPONSORED OR JUST FOR FUN?
“Three things – train hard, pack light, plan well.
I’ve put more time into training and conditioning this year than I ever have before. It definitely made the trip easier and more enjoyable.
I think there is always a tendency to pack more than you need. I just took an 8-litre bag with one pair of shorts, a t-shirt and some flip flops which I wore in the evening. I only had one set of cycling clothes, but don’t worry, I did hand wash them in the sink every night! I also used Palm & Pine’s plastic-free sun protection which is great (shout-out to ex-Morzine local, Sarah Muir for that).
Finally, use a good trip planner like Komoot which breaks down longer journeys into shorter day trips and helps you find accommodation and things to see/do.
HOW DID YOU TRY AND MAKE YOUR TRIP AS ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY AS POSSIBLE?
“As you know, even travelling by bike isn’t completely carbon-free. You still have to account for the bike’s production emissions and the associated emissions for the extra food and drink your body uses to power the bike.
I think eating/drinking local produce is a good idea. Partly because it’s nice to discover local delicacies, but more because transportation, refrigeration and packaging of food is a big part of the problem.
I was privileged enough to stay in hotels in order to reduce the number of things I took with me. Inevitably, camping would have been lower carbon/less energy used, but more weight and more time taken to complete the trip. Although, one night I stayed in a wooden cabin in a forest which was good fun apart from nocturnal animals keeping me awake!
I try (but sometimes fail) to be environmentally mindful in every decision I make. I also donate to carbon offsetting organisations, but have a firm belief that carbon offsetting is not truly offsetting and the primary goal is to curb emissions at the source (proactive, not only retroactive strategies).
There is a company called Goodwings who claims to ‘remove the CO2 from your stay, your flight, even your meals’.
To come back to Morzine I took the train. I love train travel. It’s great for seeing more of the country and for people watching. TER and TGV trains have dedicated bike sections where you can store your bike free of charge. On TER, you can leave the bike fully built. For some TGV trains, you might need to dismantle it and put it in a bike bag. More info here: Bike on Board.”
DO YOU HAVE AN ULTIMATE KIT LIST TO SHARE WITH US AND OUR READERS?
“The list below contains lots of products that don’t come carbon-free! Where possible I try to buy the best quality/long-lasting options (I realise I am very privileged to have that choice) and follow this thinking hierarchy for my buying habits: Reduce > Reuse > Repair > Recycle.
At the risk of teaching your Granny to suck eggs, reduction/moderation of consumerism is essential (and benefits your pocket too), but if you can’t buy second-hand, buying from brands like Patagonia and Picture who are committed to more responsible manufacturing is key. Equally importantly, when transport is often as big a problem, if not an even bigger problem than raw material production, find products that travel shorter distances from the factory to your house.
The problem now is that many brands are getting on the bandwagon. Not because they are committed to reducing their environmental impact, but because they see a commercial opportunity – greenwashing is intensifying. Beware of imposters and don’t believe the marketing hype!”
● A road bike – you’ll definitely need one of those!
● A good helmet – I wear the Smith Trace featuring Koroyd
● Bike bags – I use Restrap who are trying to minimise their carbon footprint
● Padded lycra shorts and lycra t-shirt (pockets in the back are helpful)
● Lightweight waterproof – high visibility
● Sunglasses – I can confirm, a fly in your eye is no fun!
● Bike lights – definitely a rear light for safety
● Palm & Pine sun protection
● Two large water bottles
● Electrolytes – for preventing dehydration
● Snacks like flapjack – add nuts and raisins (I call this ‘Papajack’)
● Puncture kit and pump – or get a tubeless setup
● Multitool for bike fixing/maintenance
● GPS for navigation
● Lightweight clothes for evenings – shorts, t-shirt, flip flops
● Bamboo toothbrush snapped at the head (to make it smaller)
● Plasters for your feet
● Solar-powered charging dock (for your phone/lights/GPS)
Gill, you’re an inspiration to us all, cyclists or not. Congratulations on such a successful trip and thank you for your kind donation to Montagne Verte, as well as sharing your experience, tips and tricks and overall insight into your motivation for embarking on this great challenge!
To our readers, if you’re embarking on a challenge of any sort, please feel free to get in touch and tell your story. We’d love to hear more inspiring stories like Gill’s in the future.
Author: Katie Rutherford