Riding the Voie Verte From Foix to Saint Girons (Part 2)

In Part 1 I wrote about our experience of cycling to the campsite on the first day – the “there” part of our microadventure along the voie verte from Foix to Saint Girons in the Ariege.

We’re pretty familiar with our local voie verte so for this microadventure I wanted to venture further afield and try out this new route. However, as I found out to my peril, not all of these routes are as delightfully flat and easy to pedal as the Lavelanet-Mirepoix route I’m used to. Oh no, no, no!

The half of the route I rode actually has an elevation profile that looks like this:

Not huge in the scheme of things (roughly 150 metres of ascent over 9km) and fine if you’re an healthy adult or older child on a geared bike but a slightly bigger ask if you’re a child under 6 with a single-speed 14″ inch wheeled machine.

Having made it to our camp site the day before and spent a very lovely night at the campsite (in which my new tent performed very well indeed), staying to have breakfast and swim in the pool before we packed up and headed back, I packed us up and we set off with some trepidation. I was very worried about the hill ahead, not least the children knew it was coming and were already tired!

I was right to worry. On the return journey everyone was shattered and progress was slow. DS had a fall and bashed his chin on the handle bar. DD was just in a grump (not unusual when the going gets tough!) We stopped alot. I ran out of snacks. It was hot and there wasn’t much shade. At one point I was pushing my bike with my 5-year-old son sitting on my saddle with his bike bungied onto the trailer while my daughter reluctantly pedaled on ahead. I am pretty good at keeping my spirits up in order to keep there’s up but if you had heard the conversation I was having with myself you would have known I was not quite as convinced as I sounded!

We plodded on but everyone was getting more tired and then there was a long, straight, very obviously uphill section in full sun, and also an appropriate stopping/resting/pickup point. We’d managed just over half of the return journey and we were probably less than another 1km from the top but I was worried that would be the time we’d have a silly accident with both of them whizzing down, enjoying their speed but without their brains on. I decided to call it. No-one cried with joy but there were definitely happy about the idea of going home in the car!

For me the main takeaways are:

– don’t assume a ride on a disused railway line will be flat! Do check the gradient profile before you set off. I didn’t and the first half in both directions was really hard going for my two smalls.

– do make sure you have everything you need before you go. I “popped in” to Decathlon for a gas canister on the way to the start and they’d sold out! That meant no coffee in the morning, other than at the cafe when it opened.

– do take food ???? We had planned to eat in the campsite but it was closed on a Monday night as was one of the two restaurants in the village, which isn’t unusual for France. Luckily the owner of the only open cafe in the village took pity on me and rustled something up, even though they weren’t officially serving food either. It was only a combination of luck (that they served food at all!) and the desperate faces of two small children pulling on the heartstrings of the owner that turned that one around.

– single overnight stays are hard work on everyone: setting up and decamping for three is quite a lot of work and not staying for a full day means the little legs are still tired. We all felt a bit rushed.

All-in-all it was a really good learning experience for me and for two small people a pretty big adventure by all accounts and hopefully the first of many!

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