Respirer Paris, cela conserve l’âme.
– Victor Hugo
When Olivier asked me to join him for the ACBO (Amicale Cyclotouriste de la Banlieue Ouest) remembrance day ride to Rethondes I didn’t hesitate for a second (well … I did because of some work-related stuff). Being able to visit the Alex Singer boutique, seeing our friends from the BRM 600 in Flins and having a 200k ride around Paris is just too good to say no. We left for Paris on Sunday afternoon and the weather was really nice yet we knew that the next day would be cold and rainy. We quickly checked into our hotel and went to the Alex Singer boutique to have some pre-ride beers and to pick up Oliviers new frame. It was great seeing Olivier C. again and we had a chance to test ride the first electric bike developed by Alex Singer: Cycles Cavale. What a gem!
Having beers in the kitchen above the boutique always feels a bit surreal. You can just feel the history Alex Singer has and Olivier C. is really hospitable. It feels like we’ve known each other for a while now. He even gave us some insights on the annual sprint just before the lunch stop. When Bruno (randonneur exceptionnel) arrived the BRM 600 gang was almost complete. We went to the restaurant of Pasquale to have dinner. It was so great to see him again. Always in a good mood and I was looking forward to riding with him again tomorrow.
Il est cinq heures, Paris s’éveille.
– Jacques Dutronc
After a not so good night’s sleep, we woke up early and had a quick breakfast that our hotel provided and went to the Alex Singer boutique where all the ACBO riders gathered. We were among the first ones there and Olivier C. provided us with some coffee. My GPS showed 3 °C yet I was feeling warm and fuzzy inside. It was the feeling of being able to ride my bike a whole day with amazing cyclists.
What a surreal experience it was riding our bikes in the early morning through the Paris suburbs. There was hardly any traffic and some parts weren’t lit by street lighting. We picked up some more riders whilst riding, most of them were on exquisite Alex Singer bikes. Within the first hour of the ride, somebody had a flat … It wouldn’t be the last this ride.
Once we passed the Paris suburbs we were in the French countryside it was pure joy cycling again in France. Sleepy villages and deserted roads are the absolute sumum of cycling. It was still cold and started drizzling a bit when we finally arrived at Restaurant Le Goujon. Although it was only 9 AM the first beers were already being served. We were referred to as “Les Belges qui ne bois pas” but we couldn’t care less. After a coffee and a jambon-beurre, we set off for the final stretch towards Rethondes. It was great riding once again in the Compiegne forest. It took me back to the Brussels – Paris – Brussels rides in 2017 & 2018. It was now raining pretty hard and we were hauling ass to make it on time for the ceremony. We were just in time!
It was cold and raining during the ceremony but luckily the organizers had hot chocolate and glühwein. After fixing yet another flat we were back on the bike towards the restaurant for a lunch break. The rain was pouring down when we were riding on the main roads to Verberie. The tension was rising and I noticed more and more riders were nervous as we inched towards the city border of Verberie. Olivier C. told us the previous evening they always have a sprint a city border signpost of Verberie, he even drew out the sprint but I never stood a chance. In the end, it was a tight sprint between Oliver C. and Olivier but Olivier C. is once again the king of the Verberie sprint.
Vélocipède was also at our table making a photo documentary of the ride. Be sure to check out his Instagram profile. After an hour or 2 of wining and dining it was time to set off again to the City of Light. Everybody was in good spirits but the first climb after the lunch made sure everybody was back to reality. The French riders were slacking a bit (because of the wine?) so Olivier and I rode together for a while. The sun was even coming out. I was enjoying every minute of the ride.
When darkness fell we were on the outskirts of Paris and the madness began. Riding in rush hour towards Paris was absolutely nuts yet the view of the Paris skyline was stunning and the adrenaline was rushing through my body. Traffic was insane and with just a few km’s to go I had a pinch flat. We tried pumping up the tire a few times but in the end, quickly changed the tube. When we arrived back at the boutique there was pizza and beer. And fun with latex inner tubes … Good times.
Thank you Olivier Csuka for inviting us to join in on the ride. Pasquale and Bruno it was great seeing you guys again and riding again with you. Thanks, Olivier “The King” Sels for the company. As always I had a great time. Looking forward to other adventures in the future and we might have to start thinking about having me an Alex Singer built.