Antibes and back - thumping through France

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by rallybug, Jun 26, 2006.

  1. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    My first major off-island expedition on the Dominatrix, apart from a long weekend in Yorkshire a few weeks ago.

    The holiday started well with gear and clutch issues – the clutch was replaced (ouch, money :(: ) and the gear lever turned out to be held on to the shaft with a grub bolt – the splines have worn off the shaft! :huh A new bolt was attached tightly into the hole and I was ready to go.

    I went with my mate Pete – he took his Monster 600, and having only passed his test in Feb 2005, this was a big first test for him too. I arranged to stay at his place in Peel on the IOM the night before we went, even though I live in Douglas where the ferry terminal is, so that we left together (early start) and could make sure we had everything we needed.

    Prepared for the trip with a new Manx sticker on the pannier, and the shorty rear indicators from Hein Gericke fitted:

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    As the ferry was at 7.30 on Friday morning (16th June) we had to get up nice and early – alarm went off at 5am :eek1 Got ourselves ready, and posed for the leaving photo, as you do :D

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    Me on the left, Pete on the right

    First issue – my bike wouldn’t start! Not good when you’re trying to kick-start it fully geared up – got it going with a bump start down the road though. All this meant we got to the ferry 10 mins after last check-in, but what they heck, on we went no problem.

    The bikes were tied down to special fences that the Steam Packet use during TT for all the bikes that come over:

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    The boat left on time at 07:30, and the crossing was fairly smooth across the Irish Sea, docking in Liverpool at 10:00, right on time. We cleared the ferry by 10:30, and off we went.

    We took the motorway all the way down through England, using the M62, M6, M6 Toll (£2.50 each way for bikes :bluduh ), stopping at the services on the M6 Toll for the first lot of fuel. As my bike only has a 13.5 litre tank (3.6 US Gal / 3 Imp. Gal) including a 2.5l reserve, we decided to look for fuel at around the 100 mile mark, rather than stretch too far into reserve.

    Carried on down the M6, onto the M1 and then onto the M25 (London’s orbital route) and we hadn’t gone many miles on that when traffic really started building up – the joys of Friday afternoon travel!

    We crawled along with the traffic for a while, then pulled into services to re-fuel and get some water down our necks – it was getting hot out there, with the temperature up in the 20s, and the heat pooling off the bikes.

    Pete decided enough was enough – time for me to lead as my bike was wider, and we were going to split through the traffic. Got back on the motorway and an R1200GSA appeared 2-up – they started splitting so we followed them through for a few miles. Amazing watching the traffic moving apart in front of us – I felt like Moses :lol3 We split for a few miles, then took a break, then started splitting again over the Queen Elizabeth II bridge at Dartford (no toll for bikes :thumb) where Pete and I got separated – cage drivers changing lanes without checking as they vied for toll lanes meant Pete got caught up, whereas I was already through.

    Carried on along the M25 and then slowed down going down the M20 towards the Channel Tunnel, waiting for Pete to catch up, which he did not long after. We arrived at the Tunnel just after 4pm, booked on a 19:38 crossing and waited around until we were called. Bikes are put on last, and there were 3 guys from Plymouth on Blackbirds that were aiming to get down to Portugal and back in 2 weeks (long trip!) and a couple from Peterborough on an R1200RT – turns out the couple were staying at the some cheap hotel as us, a Formule 1 in Coquelles, by Calais.

    35 minutes later and we rolled off the train and onto French soil – next job, find the hotel. I ended up leading, not having a clue where I was going :lol3 so promptly got lost when we left the autoroute! The couple on the RT were circling a roundabout waiting for their sat nav to start working, we ended up back on the autoroute and then I remembered that the hotel instructions said to take exit 41 and head for the centre of Coquelles – we did this, and then flashed past the hotel, turned around, headed back and checked in.

    The hotels we stayed in for the whole trip were cheap chain ones, that had a double-bed with single bunk over, and went from the Formule 1s with a hand basin and no air-con (shared WC and showers) to the Villages Hotels and Premier Classes with air-con and en-suites. They were all in the €29-35 price for the room per night (£20-24 or $36-44), and did the job well.

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    The RT couple turned up a little later (he’d put the wrong route into the nav system), and we went to the only place open at 22:30 – the Buffalo Grill. Not bad and the first Kronenbourg 1664 didn't touch the sides :1drink , but we were only really interested in our beds by then, and it was midnight before we crashed out :lol3

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    Parked outside the Coquelles Formule 1

    Day 1’s route
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    302 miles and 19 hours (including a ferry crossing, channel tunnel, 2 stops and traffic :D )
    #1
  2. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    We knew that day 2 was going to be a long one - our next hotel was booked in the town of Beaune, just to the SSW of Dijon, but it still took us until 10am to get going. Packed the bikes up - my new inner bags were proving their worth now for me!

    We stopped at the Auchan superamrket for something to eat for breakfast - had a pain au chocolat each, and bought some mineral water to take with us - half a litre each washed down the pain, the other 4 bottles went into my panniers. We filled up at the Auchan as I'd hit reserve the night before as we entered Coquelles, then we hit the autoroute for points south. :wings we're off!

    We took the A26 to Reims and Troyes, then on the A5 and A31 to Beaune, sitting at around 110-120kph (70-75mph), where my bike was fairly comfortable. We had 5 or 6 stops on the way south, 4 for fuel and a couple more just general rest breaks, as we acclimatised to the time in the saddle and the hotter weather. Arrived at the Villages Hotel - like most of these chain hotels, it was on the edge of town in an industrial park. We went to the nearby Arcotel restaurant for food, where a 3-course meal including a 1/4 carafe of red wine came to the princely sum of 11€50 (£8 or $15) - it was a buffet starter with lots of choice, and I had Tete au Veau for a main course (that's veal's head :D)

    Crashed back at the hotel after a long day, but at least now we'd broken the back of the journey south!.

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    At the Auchan in Coquelles for breakfast

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    Stopped on the way south for a break

    Day 2's route
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    380 miles, all told
    #2
  3. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    The third day was much shorter - we only had to get from Beaune to Avignon, where we had booked into a Villages Hotel for 3 nights. This would be the first taste of touristy stuff, once we'd arrived :nod

    We left Beaune at 09:45, and took the autoroutes down to Avignon, using the A6, A7 and A8. We arrived at 16:30 with no real trouble finding the hotel, as it wasn't far from the péage on the autoroute. Once again, we had multiple stops en route for fuel and breaks - by this time my butt was getting a little sore even with the Renazco seat (no idea how bad it would've been with the Honda seat - ta, James :thumb).

    There was another hotel from a slightly more expensive chain next door (a Campanile), and as it was late, we decided to have food there - they have a restaurant open to non-residents as well as residents. Once again, a 3-course meal with a buffet starter and dessert, and gorgonzola ravioli as a main course for me (18€90 - £13 or $24). We then went back to our hotel and crashed, ready for doing some local stuff the next day.

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    Only 230 miles today
    #3
  4. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    For a change, today we decided to ride into Arles and Avignon, to see some of the old Roman architecture in Arles in and the medieval buildings in Avignon.

    It's only a short 26 mile jaunt down the N7 and N570 from Avignon, and we parked up close to the old centre. I left my panniers on, so we dumped the jackets and gloves inside, locked the helmets to the bike and wandered off up into the old town. We walked up some steps, through a narrow street and into a small square - there we were faced with this view:

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    The Roman amphitheatre.

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    Very impressive, and very clean on this side :thumb It was a little dirtier further around, so I imagine they're in a cleaning process:

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    Looking down a couple of the streets radiating out from the amphitheatre:

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    We wandered through the town, and found the impressive square fronted on one side by the Hotel de Ville (town hall)
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    One a second side were these two buildings
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    Lots of impressive buildings in Arles, but as it was 31C by a pharmacy thermometer (88F) we decided to roll on back to Avignon and the old town.

    As we pulled into Avignon, we noticed that the temperature was even warmer - 33.5c or 92F phew!

    We parked up next to an Irish registered airhead RT - trusting folks, the Irish, as they'd locked their helmets to the bike, but left the Garmin 2610 sat in it's mount on the bars :huh :lol3

    Walked up the first side street we came too (after trying to get a drink in a cafe - they would only serve us if we bought something to eat :bluduh) - rounded a corner and found this sight in front of us:

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    It's the side of the palace used by the popes who moved to Avignon in the 14th century (see here for a quick guide) - an impressive edifice to come upon :D

    From the front the papal palace is astounding and my photos don't do it justice in any way

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    In all, the palace has 15,000m2 of floor space (that's 161,000 sq.ft. or 3.7 acres :eek1) and is the biggest Gothic palace in the world!

    The Palais de la Monnaie opposite the main papal palace was built in honour of Pope Paul V, and features his family's coats of arms (the Borghese family) of eagles and dragons.

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    How's your latin?

    And of course, you can't go to Avignon without seeing the source of the song - the St-Bénezet bridge.

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    Who remembers the song then?

    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse, l'on y danse
    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse tous en rond
    Les beaux messieurs font comm' ça
    Et puis encore comm' ça

    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse, l'on y danse
    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse tous en rond
    Les bell' dames font comm' ça
    Et puis encore comm' ça

    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse, l'on y danse
    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse tous en rond
    Les jardiniers font comm' ça
    Et puis encore comm' ça

    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse, l'on y danse
    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse tous en rond
    Les couturiers font comm' ça
    Et puis encore comm' ça

    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse, l'on y danse
    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse tous en rond
    Les vignerons font comm' ça
    Et puis encore comm' ça

    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse, l'on y danse
    Sur le pont d'Avignon
    L'on y danse tous en rond
    Les blanchisseus's font comm' ça
    Et puis encore comm' ça

    The history of the bridge

    A short day on the bikes, but lots of stuff done

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    When we got back to the hotel, we checked over the bikes, lubed the chains etc, and then found that my bike was below minimum for oil :eek1 Luckily, the Auchan hypermarket was a few minutes walk away, so I treated her to some Shell Advance oil :D
    #4
  5. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    Tuesday was our first day of proper curvy roads - we were going to the top of Mont Ventoux, one of the stages used by the Tour de France cycle race.

    It's only a short distance from Avignon, so we took the small roads through Carpentras and Bédoin, and up the eastern road.

    Below the treeline, the road curves nicely, some hairpins, some gentle curves, allowing me to use 2nd to 4th gears, and actually using the edges of the tyres rather than just the middle :lol3

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    You can see out target in the distance - the observatory on the top

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    The only downside is that the day was hazy, so the views from above the treeline weren't that great

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    I think the snow gets a little deep here :D

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    About 2/3 of the way up is the memorial to the English cyclist Tom Simpson, who died at this point in the 1967 TdF - Wikipedia entry

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    View from the top of Mt Ventoux (1989 metres or 6500ft)

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    There are still plenty of cyclists who climb Ventoux - indeed, there were two Dutch cycling clubs climbing it on the day we were there - nutters, the lot of them :lol3

    COming back down the other side was great fun, so no pictures :D Lots of sweeping bends, and some very tight downhill hairpins to liven things up - and the cars got out of the way :thumb

    We came back down into Malaucène, then dropped into Carpentras for lunch, sitting on a wall eating out baguette with pâté and drinking mineral water.

    After lunch, it was too early to head back to the hotel, so we decided to go along the little roads to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, home of the red wine of the same name, to have a wander around. Obviously, being on the bikes we couldn't try the wine, but we wandered around the village for a while.

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    Back to the hotel, to start packing - tomorrow is Cannes and Antibes :thumb

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    #5
  6. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    Today is the day we're heading for the Mediterranean coast at Antibes.

    We set off slightly later than planned due to Pete's seat not going back on properly when we refitted his panniers - very strange, it never went wrong again after that. This wasn't the last issue of the day though - my gearbox was also crunching when going into first, and I had noticed that the lever was hitting one of the centre stand mounting bolts, so the stand was removed for the remainder of the holiday and strapped to my rack.

    We got on the autoroute and headed for Antibes - as I was slowing down for the péage just below Salon-de-Provence, I tried to change from 5th to 4th and felt the gear lever clunk against something hard - the frame :eek1 No gears :huh Paid my toll, and managed to chug away from the booth in 5th with a bit of clutch control. I pulled into the parking area and checked it out - the bolt that was bodged in to hold the gear lever to the shaft had come out and was lost - oh no! Pete arrives and as the services are nearby, we decide to chug along to them and hope that we can find a bolt either in the shop or lying around - no such look. I bite the bullet and call the breakdown service.

    They took my details and their French agent called back within an hour - due to French regulations only authorised recovery agents can deal with breakdowns on the autoroute, so I would need to go to the next SOS phone and call it in, then get that recovery agent to call this man up to arrange taking over. We chugged off to the next SOS phone, and once there I realised that there would be a €97 fee to get me off the autoroute! B*****r that, thinks I - we started off again, and I chugged up to speed until we reached the next exit at Aix en Provence. We then found a layby on the edge of town, and called the French recovery agent up. After working out where we were, he arranged for a local recovery service to come and find us. We waited for around 30-45 minutes and the recovery guy appeared, he looked at the problem and then went back to his truck. After rummaging for a while, he found a bolt that fitted and did it up as tight as he could - I had gears again and we were off!

    We got back on the autoroute, and then left it at Le Luc to take the minor roads down to Fréjus and we then road the Corniche de l'Esterel from Agay into Cannes. After refuelling in Cannes, we headed for our next hotel in Vallauris, just outside Antibes, and got there without issue, apart from getting stuck in the Cannes rush hour for a while :lol3

    After dumping our gear in the room, we rode down to the beach at Antibes, for the obligatory furthest point pictures:

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    Me in a flattering pose lol

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    Pete

    For some strange reason, after eating at McD's, I was leading on the way back - I don't do leading in towns as I have no sense of direction :lol3 and we ended up halfway back to Cannes! Pete took over, and we made our way back to Antibes through what looked to be a very exclusive area on the cliff, with gated houses on a narrow windy road with some uphill 1st gear hairpins creeping up on us in the dark :eek1

    Only 160 miles today, and an eventful day too :D

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    #6
  7. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    We left the hotel in Vallauris at 09:15, heading up to the autoroute and across to Grasse, where we aimed to pick up the Route Napoleon (this is the route taken by Napoleon after escaping from Elba prior to his last battle at Waterloo).

    We picked up the N85 (Rte Napoleon) at Grasse and headed for Digne-Les-Bains. We got stuck behind a motorhome for a while, going up through the hairpins doing 30mph at the most, but as soon as I saw a clear section I dropped a gear and went for it - I got passed the motorhome and opened the throttle a bit so that I could have some fun. The road wound up and down the mountains, around hairpins and flowing curves, sometimes with only a barrier between the road and a looooooooooooooong drop. I knew that two BMWs had followed me (and RT and a GS) but they didn't catch up to me until I pulled over to wait for Pete. Unfortunately, he'd got caught behind the motorhome, and only got a chance to overtake it once I got going again and waved him through. We then both enjoyed the freedom on the roads, setting our own paces.

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    Between Digne-Les-Bains and Gap, the road got a little boring and flat, but at Gap we picked up the curves again, and I leap-frogged Pete to give us each our own space again, waiting for him occasionally at the villages the road passes through. There were some lovely downhill hairpins and sweeping, constant-radius curves coming down from Gap, until finally we dropped down into Grenoble from Laffrey - down a 10km hill with a 12% gradient :eek1

    We found our Premier Classe hotel in the suburb of Giéres, wandered over to a nearby restaurant for tea, and then had an earlyish night - big riding day tomorrow of 660km (410 miles) back up to Reims

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    #7
  8. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    Nothing much to say about today's ride - we left the hotel at 9.30, and hit the autoroute all the way to Reims, arriving at the hotel there at 18:30. No issues with the ride, it was just long, boring and windy :dunno

    Once we'd dumped the stuff in the hotel room, we rode into Reims itself for food. The joy about being on a bike in France is that you can park the bike pretty much anywhere, so Peter (having been to Reims before) recognised the Place Drouet d'Erlon, and we pulled over into it. We parked up, put the jackets and gloves in my panniers and wandered off for a look-see. We parked right opposite le Grand Cafe, and that's where we ended up eating, and we could keep an eye on the bikes at the same time.

    Prior to eating we, wandered around for a while, looking at the sights

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    Parked up in Reims

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    Le Grand Cafe in the background

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    The Subé fountain

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    Joan of Arc

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    Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims

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    #8
  9. RICHXHELL

    RICHXHELL Scooterist

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    Cool! Brings back memories of happy tours (by car) of those places. See you soon Bug :thumb
    #9
  10. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    Not much to say for these days - we had a short 3-4 hour ride from Reims to Calais and the same Formule 1 hotel in Coquelles on the 24th, and spent the afternoon wandering around the Cité d'Europe shopping complex before relaxing prior to the ride home on Sunday.

    We got up bright and early on Sunday (7am French time, 6am UK time), got ready and rode over to the Tunnel terminal - we were given the option of an earlier train, so we took it, leaving France at 08:28 for the 35-minute journey to Folkestone, arriving at 08:03 UK time. We rode back up throughthe English motorway system, using the same route as the journey down, and apart from a short, sharp rain around Manchester, it was an Ok journey. Got to the docks in Liverpool just after 4pm, for a 6.30 sailing, boarded the boat and then relaxed for the 150-minute journey across the Irish Sea.

    I was home by 10, and the biking gear was in the wash not long after - boy, did it need it :lol3

    All told, according to my odometer, we did 3,850kms (2400 miles) on the holiday - which is 400 miles more than I did in the whole of 2005 :lol3

    All the photos
    #10
  11. ilmostro

    ilmostro Under Da Sea

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    :clap Great job Bug!

    See you soon :thumb
    #11
  12. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
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    Fantastic ride report and picture.. France is just so beautiful... :tb Thanks for posting.

    :thumb

    :clap
    #12
  13. Tim

    Tim Long timer

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    Great report RB.

    Mrs KTiM and I were at Mont Ventoux on 11th of June for the hillclimb. It runs from Bedoin, up to the cafe/restaurant near the top - 10 kms, over all record time is 3'50.9" !!!

    We had lunch and were able to watch the cars going around the last corner at the same time.

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    #13
  14. NordicRider

    NordicRider Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Oh, man, nice report! After reading it at work I feel like I just had a 20 minute holiday! Thanks muchfully - roll on the summer...:clap
    #14
  15. rallybug

    rallybug Local Yokel

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    Finally got the tank filled up for the last time, and conferred with my mate on total mileage showing his Monster, so here's the final figures (all rounded to nearest whole number):

    Metric:
    Litres used: 220
    Kms ridden: 3790 (show on my bike, but my odometer appears to read low)
    average l/100km: 5
    average km/l: 19

    Imperial:
    Imp. gallons used: 48
    Miles ridden: 2600 (my bike showed 2355, Pete's showed 2600)
    Imp. MPG: 54

    US
    US Gal used: 58
    US MPG: 45

    Worst consumption was 42mpg (Imp) / 35mpg (US) / 15 km/l or 6.8 l/100km (motorway between Beaune and Avignon into a headwind)

    Best consumption was 59 Imp. MPG / 49 US MPG / 21 km/l or 4.8l/100km on the Route Napoleon dropping down into Grenoble, so a lot of downhill stuff :thumb
    #15