- Late 1990’s Bianchi, Full Cromo Tubes and Forks
- 24 Speed, 3 x 8
- Campagnolo Mirage Groupset
- Rigida Rims, Steel Spokes
Riding in the Region
The Dordogne isn’t like the flat and wide open spaces of Normandy. It is a hilly, rocky place, that affords it the great views and perched castles that has made it so famous. Hilly enough, certainly, to push someone like me to the limits sometimes. In fact, when you drive around this region, it’s noticeable how windy the roads are, twisting and every hundred metres for miles on end through the lush countryside and brown rock formations.
Ok, it’s not Really Vintage
These winding and hilly roads meant the Bianchi, with its 3 x 8 set up, it’s thumb shifting Campagnolo gears, it’s oversize tubes, was the best choice for me. Because without doubt, it would be much more of a challenge to discover this region on an old 10 speed bike. You’d be shifting with one hand and steering with the other through corners, and well as scrambling to find the right gear as the gradient changes so quickly. Not only that, I seriously don’t believe a ten or twelve speed would be enough range for me; do I see myself pushing a 42/ 28 gear ratio through these hills? I don’t think so.
It’s Mechanical Condition
Now let me just say, this Bianchi wasn’t in perfect shape. I had just bought it and the shifting on it wasn’t particularly slick. There was often a lag when both downshifting and upshifting, which is not handy when you find yourself coming out of one of the many short descents to face another incline. No indeed. It needed new cables and a good tuning up, but I just didn’t have the time to get it done before getting on the road. Besides this issue, the bike behaved very well and thankfully the brakes and tyres held up well.
I was based in an area of the Dordogne named Perigord Noir, between the historic towns of Perigueux to the north, and Bergerac, to the east. There is a lot to discover in this area, as you can find many unmarked paved roads that take you off the beaten track to little villages, which are often hidden in valleys and nestled amongst forests. These roads, even though they are narrow and unnamed, are always signposted well, better than in the UK, I think, and are often really quiet. On a ride of about 25 kilometres, I only saw a dozen cars along the road.
Great Song Title
I found a little village called Journiac, which is a great name. It could be the name of a Radiohead song, and it sums up a lot about my life. There was absolutely nothing there, not even a village shop, just a small church, a mairie, and about a dozen houses in absolute silence. Fields of cows and horses, sometimes goats, were often at my side as I rode through a very pleasant May afternoon on the Bianchi.
Granny Gearing It
I have to admit, there were times that I had to stop after reaching my limits on these hilly roads. A 2 kilometre hill, though not really a steep gradient, would get me into trouble, I was using the lowest gear and really struggling at times to keep going. It made me realise how out of shape I am. Nevertheless, I improved with each ride, spurned on by the though of what was around the next corner.
The Bianchi on the Road
The Bianchi was a comfortable, reliable machine. Not only that, it just looked good when parked outside a shop or against a brown stone wall, the rock is called lauze, which is a feature of this region. It’s not a light bike; weighing in around 21lbs, it has a triple crankset and the Campagnolo Avanti groupset was not the lightest of the period. The same goes for the wheelset, with its Rigida rims and stainless steel spokes. Is was a hike that had seen quite a lot of miles, had not been tuned, yet everything felt durable, dependable, and I loved it.
A Great Part of France to Discover
It all gets a bit Tourist Officey if I write about stopping off a quaint boulangeries for a pastry, or for a cafe au lait under a tree lined village square. But it really is like that, like being in some idealistic French setting which it is actually more beautiful than what you imagined. The towns of Sarlat De Canada and Perigueux are just outstanding, but there are so many hidden places amongst the rivers and their tributaries, just too many to mention. There’s no better way to see it than cycling it, because then you are really discovering it on every turn.