DEC 17, 2013
Bike-share bikes are unwieldy things. Clocking in at around 23 kilograms, the typical Bixi-made cycle is designed to be slow and sturdy. It’s pretty tricky to navigate the clunky, three-gear contraption up a substantial hill. How about one of the most famously tough mountains in Europe?
Earlier this fall, Matthew Winstone, Ian Laurie, and Robert Holden attempted to bring a London Boris Bike to the top of the notorious Mont Ventoux, the most challenging ride of the Tour de France (yes, France), then return it before their 24-hour rental period expired.
After undocking from a south London station just before 4 am, the trio set out on the 11-hour drive that took them under the English Channel, across France, and to the base of Provence’s Mont Ventoux.
Here, British cyclist Tom Simpson died from exhaustion during the 1967 tour. French philosopher Roland Barthes once called it “a god of Evil.” And with that incline, no wonder it’s sometimes known as the “Beast of Provence.”
Setting out nearly 12 hours after they left London, Holden cycled for almost three grueling hours to make it up the 22 kilometer route, gaining more than 1,600 meters of altitude in the process. From their account of the day, it seems like the bigger obstacle to meeting the 24-hour deadline – and avoiding the £150 late fee – was probably all the driving, including a rainstorm and a close-call with the Eurotunnel.
But they made it with just 22 seconds to spare, raising more than £3,600 for cancer care in the process.
For a play-by-play look at Holden’s tough journey, complete with dramatic music, check out the 15-minute documentary they put together, below: