Archive for the 'Cycling' Category

Le Plan Vélo 2020 de Nice

Posted in Cycling, Nice at 14:37

Le Negresco with cyclist, November 2011

In November, while cycling home from my job in Cagnes-sur-Mer, I saw something no one wants to witness. On the Promenade in Nice, a few hundred metres before reaching Le Negresco, a SAMU (EMT) van was stopped next to the bike lanes, and two cyclists were on the ground, their bikes – one from our Vélo Bleu bike share – in a twisted heap. Neither cyclist had a helmet, and neither was moving or making a sound. I couldn’t look longer than that. I slowed down and signalled to cyclists behind me to do the same; only half a lane was free for passing the crash site.

Growing up in the Oregon countryside, our elementary schools in the 1980s had day-long courses where police and firefighters came to the school to teach us road, fire, and health safety. It made a lasting impression on me. I already knew how to ride a bike, but as a child, even when your parents explain rules to you, you don’t quite grasp that there are other people involved in your safety. This is normal: a child develops most healthily when their family provides a safe space, one the child does not see as “external”. When the firefighters and police came, they were other people – not family. I remember being struck by how important it was to have these other people to take care of you if you were in an accident, and how useful sensible road rules and regulations were. This is where my philosophy of “ride predictably” came from. It’s not just for your safety, it’s also for others. The road is a shared space, and behaving predictably means that everyone has a chance to use it in as egalitarian a manner as possible.

It doesn’t take long in Nice to notice that there are quite a few people who couldn’t care less about driving predictably. Red light? Accelerate. Pedestrian crossing at a light? Swerve around them. Yes, I have been swerved around and cursed at while crossing the street on a green pedestrian light – the cars had red lights. Motorized scooters drive on the sidewalk at full speed and will also curse at you if you tell them to use the empty road. In this sort of environment, it wasn’t too surprising to discover that a minority of cyclists behaved the same way. Except it was having a very bad impression on novice cyclists, namely bike share users. I spoke with so many people who said, for instance, “why should I signal or stop for pedestrians when drivers don’t?” Others who shrugged, “I don’t see any rules for cyclists, why bother.”

I thought about how my Oregon upbringing had made road cycling enjoyable and safe, looked at what was missing in Nice, and wrote city hall with suggestions. As well as praise. Nice truly has come a long way in the last five years, and the roads are noticeably safer. As the bike share program and bike lanes expanded, however, I saw grave danger ahead if self-centered driving and riding behaviors continued unchecked.

Last December I received a response from Christian Estrosi, saying he had taken my email into account and was tasking his road security department to look into the suggestions. Today I received a hand-addressed letter from the city. To my pride and delight, it was from the directeur de la stratégie de la voirie, or road security/strategy director. They’ve created the Plan Vélo to be fully implemented by 2020, using my suggestions, and more!

– All Vélo Bleu stations will be equipped with signs that detail road regulations and good cycling behaviors (they didn’t have these before)

– Vélo Bleu brochures will also include the same

La Fête du Vélo and La Semaine européenne de la mobilité will now include informational campaigns on cycling road safety. I had actually overlooked the bike festival in my letter, so was very happy to see that they thought to include it.

– Primary schools will now have educational programs for cycling, in which kids will be able to ride bikes with police officers along protected routes that have road signs and such, so they can learn in a realistic situation. Excellent!

They also assured me of their plans to continue extending bike lanes in the city, which is great news. Bikes make a positive difference in many areas – health, safety, environment, roads… I’m very happy to have been able to contribute to the development of cycling in Nice, and look forward to seeing the plan implemented.

Christmas ride to Cagnes

Posted in Cycling, La France, Travel at 18:17

La Cagne - river through Cagnes

The town of Cagnes-sur-mer is named after the small river that flows through it, La Cagne, Provençal for chienne, the feminine form of “dog”. Considering how popular dogs are on the Riviera in our modern times, it is fun to watch them trot alongside their human companions and think, “dogs on the sea”, the literal translation of cagnes sur mer.

We’ve had a rainy Christmas, but the sun finally came out today. I hopped on my bike and rode to Cagnes along what used to be my commuting route to the client I was working with. If you stay along the sea, it’s a very easy ride, and quite picturesque. If you don’t mind climbing 15-20% grades, you can also ride up the castle hill in city center, or another hill (described below) to get this view I had on my commute:

Cagnes in the morning sun

Route from Nice city center
Overview: about 30km round trip; 32 if you go up either hill. Very little elevation change unless you decide to climb, in which case you’ll have 75-100 metres elevation change over about 500 metres distance. That’s 15-20%, and they are narrow, curvy roads also used by cars.

Map: IGN Cannes-Grasse “Carte de randonnée” n°3643, at 1:25,000, or 1cm=250m.

Take the Promenade des Anglais out of Nice, and stay on it. If you take the bike lanes, do be aware that there are several stop signs along the way, and once you reach Cagnes, there is a strictly-enforced cycling speed limit of 10kmh. That’s just over 6mph. Great for easygoing sightseeing, but I coast at that speed. If you’re like me and average 20-30kmh, it’s much easier and more pleasant to stay on the road.

Once you reach Cagnes, you can either stay on the Promenade, or go into the city. The nicest way to reach city center is to go along the canal of La Cagne, shown in the first photo. There’s a painted bike lane, and trees separate it from a larger walking promenade along the edge of the canal. You often see geese and ducks, and always children playing, people walking dogs, and so forth. The only tricky bit is the passage beneath the railway line and autoroute, which is quite dark – slow down in case of oncoming bike traffic. I’ve also crossed motorized scooters there. Normally they’re not allowed, but some cut through at that crossing. You shouldn’t have to worry about them elsewhere along the bike lane.

Then it gets a bit tricky. There’s a large parking lot which you can continue to follow up north, if you want to go to the castle hill. It’s not always easy to follow the bike lane, so keep your eyes peeled for its green paint. You’ll reach a large intersection with a few bus stops: follow signs for la colline du château / vieille ville (either or both terms may be used). Watch out for pedestrians.

To get the same view I had, take a sharp left after the underpass. Go straight until you reach an intersection with a small, forested park across the streets. The intersection is full of strange angles; you’ll be going west-northwest up Rue Pasqualini. The end of Pasqualini gives onto another strange intersection: go straight uphill. After crossing the intersection, you’ll take the second right at the tiny roundabout, up Chemin de l’Hubac. This is where your climb starts.

Chemin de l’Hubac isn’t too rough when you know it. The first climb has a couple corners and is rather short, after which you’ll have a breather. But then there’s a very steep section, followed by another breather, then it climbs a third time. The second climb is the most difficult. Stay on Hubac, don’t turn onto other streets. Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll be greeted with a panoramic view of Cagnes’ castle hill and the Mediterranean. There’s not much beyond that, but it is worth it for the sightseeing.

On the way back, the Promenade road (not bike lanes) is more stressful. I’m not sure why – perhaps because drivers more easily see the protected bike lanes going this direction – but cars and buses get very honk-happy and crotchety when passing road cyclists on this segment. All my worst experiences with drivers have been here. You do have the right to use the road, of course. I’ve never seen all the car lanes full, even at rush hour there’s usually an empty lane. It is better if you’re a fast rider. That said, there have been days that I’ve swapped to the bike lanes just to avoid possessive drivers.

Enjoy the fresh sea air and sights!

Cycling in Cagnes

Sleet and snow

Posted in Cycling, Nice at 19:37

Snow on the Riviera foothills - PrealpesSnow on the Riviera foothills – Préalpes looking west

I always check the weather forecast before committing to a ride. With all of our hills, mountains, rivers, valleys, and the Mediterranean, there are several microclimates in the area. It’s common for Nice to get downpours while places a few miles away stay entirely dry, and vice versa. The most reliable forecasts tend to be those from Météo France, but again, given Nice’s microclimate, there’s nothing barring the warmer Mediterranean from deciding to throw an impromptu party with cold snaps rolling down from the mountains. The best indicator – a tip shared by a dive instructor many years ago – is to look at what the winds are doing. If they start to get above 25kmh, something is afoot. I can’t overstate the importance of winds here. Again, the mountains and valleys come into play: while you’ll be relatively protected inside cities, once you’re crossing any sort of valley – for instance, the Var between Nice and Saint Laurent du Var – you will be getting strong crosswinds, often as unpredictable gusts. These are winds that blow cars a few feet sideways on the autoroute; they can do worse for lighter cyclists.

Yesterday evening, I checked my weather app and saw 5°C forecast for the morning, chance of light showers, and then the sun coming out for a 14°C afternoon. Winds at a kind-of-iffy 20kmh, but no gusts. Since Saturday we had been having thunderstorms and constant rain showers with moderate winds (30kmh), which had finally let up on Wednesday. As such long-term rains are out of the norm here, I felt reassured by Wednesday’s calm, the forecast, and 13 years of living here that all spoke towards a sense that “Thursday should be fine.”

I started out at sunrise. It was cold, but not freezing. As I rode to the Prom, a few drops began to fall. “Ah! Light rains, just as they said!” I thought. Once on the Prom, I enjoyed the fresh sea air, and flew along with a huge flock of swallows dancing a few dozen metres above. It was a lovely sensation watching their farandole du ciel as I rode along, nearly as free as they.

Then the sky got darker, rather than lighter. As I neared the bridge over the Var and took a drink from my bottle, I thought, “wow, this tastes like it just came out of the refrigerator! …uh-oh…” I keep my refrigerator quite cold. The rain got heavier, and felt icy on my legs – I don’t have knee warmers. I thought it was due to being out of the habit of riding in the cold. But when I reached Cagnes, the water in my bottle was even icier.

There’s a 75-metre elevation gain over just 450 metres as I near our offices: a 17% climb. For the first time I can remember in 30-odd years of riding bikes, I had difficulty controlling my front wheel. It didn’t seem to want to go straight. My handlebars kept trying to squirm out from under my hands. I was grateful to have put on my full-length gloves, which are really grippy. It was only after I had reached the warmth of our offices that I learned what I’d just ridden through: a freak sleet storm that had sent cars spinning on our hills. Only another hundred metres above our hill’s elevation, snow had fallen, and stayed put all day.

Snow on the Riviera foothills - Prealpes looking northSnow on the Riviera foothills – Préalpes looking north

So it was that my 300th road kilometre was baptised by ice. It’s not an experience I want to repeat! While it’s disappointing, I do think it would be safest if I hold back from commuting, which has to happen during the weather-sensitive sunrises and sunsets here until February has passed, and keep road riding for weekends. Going out after the sun has been shining for an hour or two is much more reliable here.

Cycling the Basse Corniche

Posted in Cycling, La France, Nice at 15:12

Panorama, Port of Nice

Last week I mentioned that many bike touring places here take you along the Basse Corniche, a relatively easy and picturesque ride. Still getting my legs into shape, I decided to take it rather than the more difficult Moyenne Corniche today, for a quick ride to Villefranche-sur-mer. I’ve done the Basse Corniche by car and bus (line 100 takes you from Nice to Monaco along that very route), and always thought the Moyenne and Grande Corniches were much nicer for views. I wasn’t counting on a bicycle making a large difference. I was very happily mistaken!

Above is a panorama I put together from three photos on my camera; that is the sort of thing you can see with a quick look over your shoulder by bike. No car frame or roof to block your view. When I turned the cap de Nice and came upon Villefranche, I nearly fell off my bike from astonishment at the unexpectedly incredible view. As it was, some tourists on foot heard a surprised cyclist exclaim, “wow mais c’est trop beau !!!” There was no way I could have captured it with my camera. To your left you have the Mont Boron rising up nearly 200 metres from sea level; in front of you the nearby hills and Préalpes form the backdrop to charming Villefranche; to your right, the blue Baie de Villefranche dotted with sailboats and the occasional cruise ship, more rocky hills plunging into the Mediterranean, and Cap Ferrat jutting into the sea. All of it visible without effort. “Breathtaking” is correct.

Baie de Villefranche

Church, Villefranche old town

Here is a closer view of the Port de Nice, which had a French flag draped over our WWI-WWII memorial for the WWI Armistice commemorations today.

Port of Nice, 11 November

Route from Nice city center
Overview: 20km/12mi round trip, 90 metres/295 feet elevation gain over the 2 kilometres/just over 1 mile between the port of Nice and the Cap de Nice, as well as between Villefranche and the Cap on the way back. That’s a 4.5% grade.

Map: my favorite is the IGN Nice-Menton “Carte de randonnée” n°3742, at 1:25,000, or 1cm=250m.

I went the easy way from Nice, namely, the Promenade des Anglais, and rode up the port. Do be aware that the bike lane along the port ends before reaching its north, so you’ll need to safely rejoin the road. Turn right to follow the north end of the port, and go straight through the lights to Boulevard Carnot, which is a steady, moderately easy climb. It does climb for two kilometres, so you’ll need to be in decent shape for it. I wouldn’t do it on a Vélo Bleu, they only have three gears and are quite heavy.

The bike lanes are a bit odd from the Cap de Nice onwards, but drivers are careful as it’s a heavily-cycled route. Remember to look over your shoulder before merging or turning, and you should be fine. While riding to Villefranche, also keep your eye out for cyclists riding the wrong direction – I crossed several. Understandable, since the climb isn’t easy, and they were clearly not from the area, but still awkward.

Once in Villefranche, you can follow signs that indicate Vieille Ville, which will take you to the old town. Keep in mind you’ll have to climb the narrow, winding roads back up to get out of the village. Roads back to Nice are well-indicated, and the Basse Corniche is the most easily accessible.

On your way back from Villefranche to Nice, you can ride on the road, near the rock face of Mont Boron. Cars are well-behaved here, and as paradoxical as it may feel, it is in fact safer than riding the wrong way up the shared cycle-footpath. Predictable behavior is always safer than something unpredictable, such as coming across runners or other cyclists while riding the wrong direction. On that note, wherever you ride, always signal your movements, even if it’s only to move to the left a few feet to avoid car doors. I straighten my arm and point down and slightly left for that. In France, scooters and motorcycles have the right to pass vehicles on the left, and they usually drive fast, so you don’t always hear them or see them. If you do a quick check behind you, then signal, and keep signalling until you’ve finished moving, you’ll be much appreciated by all. I’ve now ridden 250km on my road bike, a good half of it on narrow, winding roads, and have never yet been honked at or buzzed dangerously. (A few “?!?!” incidents, yes, but all of them predictable from a defensive cycling viewpoint. There has been one scary incident, but it was so off-the-wall that it could happen anywhere. In short, use your eyes and hand signals, ride predictably and defensively, and you should be fine.)

For a bit of a change on the ride back into Nice, you can go straight on Boulevard Carnot, and continue going straight on the wide street that takes you to Place Garibaldi. In other words, don’t turn left to follow the west side of the port; just go straight through that intersection. Place Garibaldi has older cobblestones, you’ll cross the tram line as well, then ride under the MAMAC, our modern art museum. Position yourself in the left lane: after the MAMAC, turn left onto the protected bike lanes that follow our new Promenade du Paillon, and watch the lights! They’re designed for cyclists, so if you have a red, stop: it will save you from left hooks. Enjoy – it’s a beautiful ride, our city has come a long way for cycling these past few years.

Un peu de détente

Posted in Cycling, La France at 21:21

Cagnes in the morning sun

Another long weekend ahead of us here, this time for commemorations of the 1918 Armistice on Monday the 11th.

As I continue commuting to work by bike, a distinct pattern of experiences has emerged, one I never expected, and yet that is a wonderful balm for the soul. Children. I’ve always loved kids, and apparently have a face that shows it, since babies spontaneously coo at me even when I haven’t looked at them. It makes for fun surprises at parks and in public transportation: there’s nothing like getting on a crowded tramway, hearing “wheee! gaaa! heee!” then looking in the voice’s direction to find a giggly-eyed, happily-squirming infant meeting your gaze, who punctuates your eye contact with that pleased flop-the-arms-and-legs motion and a bubbly “daaaa!”

My commutes usually have some overlap with school opening and closing hours; I cross toddlers with their parents, grandparents, or friends’ parents. Without fail, little girls are delighted to see my bike. Boys love bikes too, many will make eye contact and share a smile. I nod and return the smile, and they turn back to their playing. Little girls, though… I’m a woman, I remember being a little girl and noticing early on that you don’t see many women on bikes. Even the cycling competitions that get broadcasted are overwhelmingly those with men. I remember being excited at Jeannie Longo‘s feats: here was a woman being awesome on a bicycle, something I too loved. And so, today, when little girls look at me, stop in their tracks, and stare, I get it. The little girl in me who grew up riding around her valley hills also smiles. I nod at them, as I do with all the kids.

The girls almost always widen their smiles into elated grins and respond excitedly:
“Le vélo ! Le vélo, le vélo !”
“Coucou ! Tu fais du vélo !! Du vélo !!”
“Ouaaaaaa ! Le vélooo !”
“C’est… v’zêtes sur un… un vélo !!!”
“Mamie ! Le vélo ! Le vélo !” This little girl yesterday paused for several seconds, taking in everything about my bike, until adding, entranced: “il a un CLIGNOTANT !” which means, “it has a BLINKER!” I do indeed turn on my blinky lights as soon as twilight falls. I call them my blinky-blinks. “Faut penser à mettre en route les blinky-blinks,” I remind myself before starting out on dark rides.

Another little girl yesterday evening, riding on her father’s shoulders, made an already fun commute even more so. I had just turned onto the last street before reaching my place and slowed for a yellow light. Next to me was a souped-up Citroën Saxo with windows open, blaring Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky“. I started whistling along, bopping on my bike at the red light, happy for the evening ride. I heard a tiny whistle nearby. I whistled again, and heard another whistle response; definitely a kid. I looked towards the whistling’s source: there she was, a little girl cozy in her puffy white winter coat, who bounced her arms and giggled as our eyes met. “Vélooo !” she said. I grinned, whistled a bit more, and father and daughter both smiled. The light turned green, I nodded to them and rode home.

Cycling the Riviera

Posted in Cycling, La France, Travel at 21:13

Colline du château de Cagnes

This view from part of my commute, snapped with my phone yesterday at sunset, speaks a great deal about cycling conditions in this part of the world: to say “it is not flat” is an understatement. With just 200km on my still-new road bike, not quite in good enough shape yet for longer rides, I’ve been looking into weekend ideas for short trips into the countryside. I assumed, given the number of serious cyclists you see here, plus the 14 million tourists we get each year on the Riviera, and knowing pro cyclists train here, that there would be at least someone blogging about it at some point. I know of MapMyRide, but was hoping for stories, insight, descriptions, experiences. The sort of thing that GPS traces don’t provide.

Well, I didn’t find much at all after hours of fiddling with French and English search terms. Here are some in French that give good results for trips anywhere in France except here:
– balade vélo (essentially a short bike ride)
– cyclotourisme (French for “bike touring”)
– cyclisme (cycling, generic)
– région à vélo (switch out “région” for whichever region you want to visit on bike)

If you do put in Nice, PACA (our region’s official French abbreviation), or the Côte d’Azur, in French or in English, you’ll come across lonely questions with no responses, or forum posts with “be aware that it is NOT FLAT!” replies, or a couple links to bike rental/tour gigs in the area, who generally take visitors along the flat Promenade and Basse Corniche. Those are nice rides, beautiful ideas for first-time visitors, but I’ve lived here for a while now and am the type of cyclist who enjoys a good climb or three.

“Crickets”, respond the intarwebs, apart from the obvious, yet rarely-described, Moyenne and Grande corniches to the east. The Moyenne Corniche is a bit steep and has gorgeous views. You can ride all the way to Italy (which isn’t that far, 30km from Nice) on both it and the Grande Corniche. The “Grande” corniche lives up to its name, and is a road many pros train on for its challenges. Those take you east, and flat coastal roads take you west, but what about the north? There lie the Alps, and equally stunning vistas… but no recommendations, aside from one French blogger not from the area, who talked about the crête de Craus a few kilometers north of Nice, as well as Roquebrune, La Turbie (along the Moyenne Corniche), and a few other mountain villages. However, he entirely avoided Nice. Rather impractical for advice when Nice is my home base.

I’ll likely return to my favorite bike shop and ask them for recommendations. They would definitely know some great cycling routes in the area. In the meanwhile, my personality is also of the “neat, I can figure this out on my own and learn from mistakes” type, so I’ll be checking out topo maps and whipping up some outings that I’ll try, then post about here.

IGN, France’s National Geographic Institute, has some very nice maps available for free download, in addition to the excellent ones they sell. They also publish a free Android and iPhone app. Below is a crop of their large physical map of France, showing our southeast corner of it, as well as neighboring Corsica, another place I look forward to visiting on bike.


Posted in Cycling, La France, Nice, Photography at 17:32

After falling to the flu that’s been going around these parts, I finally recovered enough this week that I had the energy to get back into the saddle today. It’s a holiday here, Toussaint (All Saints Day), and we have a brand new park, inaugurated just last Saturday. I took the opportunity to ride to the Promenade des Anglais, take in some autumn sea air, then pedal to the new Promenade du Paillon. It goes from the Promenade des Anglais, to the Acropolis, our events pavilion, following a portion of the Paillon riverbed. To build the park, our decrepit central bus station was demolished, and the park just above Place Masséna was redone. This created over a kilometer of greenery! The city has been publicizing it as new lungs bringing much-needed fresh air to that part of the city, and after visiting today, I agree with their characterization – it’s open, welcoming, and a beautiful connection of the more modern city to the north, and medieval Vieux Nice to the south. The city now feels much less divided along that axis, and much cleaner.

Promenade du Paillon

Fountains - Promenade du Paillon

Mist sprayers - Promenade du Paillon

Vieux Nice behind the mist

Acropolis entrance - Promenade du Paillon

Ma roue est voilée !

Posted in Cycling at 19:11

Achter im Fahrrad

[Not my wheel – public domain photo by Immanuel Giel]

On my last ride home, I noticed the sounds characteristic of wheels going out of true: my V-brakes started going “shwish – shwish – shwish” on the front wheel, and when nearly home, a more alarming “scraaatch – scraaatch” on the rear wheel. I stopped using the rear brake – it’s better to use your front brake primarily anyhow – since I was afraid abrasive gravel or dust had gotten on my brake pads, which could damage the rim.

Once home, I cleaned my brake pads. Still the same gritty scraping noise. Ran my fingers across my rims, didn’t feel anything out of order, cleaned them anyhow. I have plenty of cotton scraps thanks to sewing, they work great for that sort of thing. Tried the rear brake again, and it still scratched a bit, but less than before. Holding the brake lightly, I finally noticed: it was scratching a very slow wobble, and when I tested more carefully, it was definitely once each full turn. I flipped my bike upside down and spun the rear wheel, standing still to watch for wobble. Sure enough, the wheel was slightly out of true.

I shuttered plans to commute the next morning. While I probably wouldn’t be in immediate danger from a brand-new wheel a few millimeters out of true, it is nonetheless one of those things that’s best repaired, since continuing to ride could stress the wheel inordinately at certain points, which could eventually lead to a nasty rim failure or spoke breakage down the road.

Naturally, then, the next item of order was to phone the local bike shop to let them know my wheels were out of true, and ask when I could take in my bike for truing. You can learn to true wheels yourself, but an LBS, as “local bike shops” are called for short in the cycling world, only charges 10-30 dollars/euros to true a wheel or two. It’s a quick job for someone experienced, and a good shop does it well. Then I realized… I have no idea how to say “out of true” in French. Google searches didn’t help much, so here is a mini-glossary! Sheldon Brown’s site has an otherwise excellent English-French cycling glossary.

wheel out of true = roue voilée
out of true (noun) = un voile (masculin, voile avec un e)
true a wheel = dévoiler une roue
damaged rim = jante endommagée

My rims aren’t damaged; I’ve been treating my bike very well. Thought I’d throw it in, though, since it does often go hand-in-hand with a wheel being out of true! For useful sentences:

My wheel is out of true = Ma roue est voilée
… by a few millimetres = … de quelques millimètres
The rim is damaged = La jante est endommagée
It’s very out of true = Le voile est prononcé
Truing the wheel will take a bit of time = Le dévoilage prendra un peu de temps

You may have noticed that le voile is a noun whereas our English “out of true” is used as an adjective. The closest translation to a similar noun in English would be “wobble”, though un voile is a technical term, not colloquial. As such, my phrase le voile est prononcé would rather literally be “the wobble is pronounced”, or turned in more natural English, “it has a pronounced wobble”.

It’s normal for brand-new wheels to go a bit out of true after several hours of riding. All will be repaired this Thursday, and I’ll be back in the saddle.

Le vélo à Nice

Posted in Cycling, Nice at 20:57

Considering how enthusiastic I still am about my rediscovered love of cycling, this blog is well towards morphing into a “French Riviera by bicycle” theme. It’s nice to have a new activity that’s blogging-friendly; these past few years have mainly been filled with métro boulot dodo as the French saying goes. “Metro (subway), work, sleep”. I don’t actually take the metro, but it’s meant to rhyme, for which “bus” and “train” don’t quite have the same ring. However, bike does! Vélo boulot dodo !

Commuting has continued to work out well, it’s definitely a treat to be on the Promenade breathing the fresh sea air in the early mornings. I’m building up strength, and the 30-kilometer (20-mile) round trip is getting both easier and faster. It only takes 45 minutes either way, hills and stops included. There are quite a few lights along the Promenade, but with a cruising speed of 30-35 kmh, you can manage to get most of them green for a while. I was surprised that I started out with such a high speed on the flats. My goal is less to improve on that, since it’s already good, and more to increase endurance, as I would love to take longer rides on weekends, and, naturally, still have plenty of strength for weekday commutes. This will mean simple practice, as well as a focus on my core and pedalling form. In cycling it’s easy to get your legs in shape, but just as important to have strong core and arm muscles, since they help your balance and endurance. has good core exercises for cyclists, for instance.

As for cycling itself, the city of Nice has maps of cycling paths available. It’s important to note that a lot of them are right-hand bike lanes, which in Nice translates to free-for-all parking spots. Cars here are still rather anarchic. For cycling it’s good to keep in mind that you can, and should, take the lane when there’s not enough room for cars to pass on your left. Stay in the middle and don’t go too far left, however, since motorcyclists and scooters often pass on the left anyhow. Le vélo on the city of Nice’s website has PDFs with tips for cycling, and Plan du réseau has PDF maps of cycling paths in and around Nice, all the way to Cannes in the west, and Monaco to the east.

Petite promenade

Posted in Cats, Cycling, Nice at 17:04

Prom, looking east

This morning I rode down to the Promenade, following two veteran cyclists. It wasn’t planned that I ride behind them, but it was nice to be able to watch experienced cyclists, since I was able to see how they managed traffic. They had a very similar approach to my own, namely assertiveness in the name of safety, as opposed to a more reckless aggressivity. Drivers have become much more aware of cyclists in Nice since the bikeshare programme began a few years ago; I have yet to run into any scary situations in traffic. So far drivers have always been more or less aware of my presence, and taken hand signals into account. I could hardly ask for better conditions to ease into road cycling.

I took these photos with my handheld Kodak, which isn’t as nice as my Nikon DSLR. However, the handheld fits into a back jersey pocket, where the Nikon definitely wouldn’t! I probably won’t take any photos on my weekday commutes, but do hope to enjoy some weekend rides with photo stops, like today’s.

Prom, looking west

Two weeks ago, Susu wanted to show off her matte black coat in front of my glossy bike. This one is with my Nikon, you can tell the difference in color range and quality!

Matte and gloss black