Category Archives: Bikes

Creole kids on carbon fiber: WHAT?

When I heard there was a “bike race” in the next town over, I knew it was something I had to check out.  The only other sporting events I’ve ever heard about in Reunion have all been somewhat absurd, for example the 150 mile jungle run from one side of the island to the other known as the “Grand Raid”.  I also have a poster hanging in my apartment advertising the 2010 Reunion Paragliding Championships.  I don’t even know how you compete in paragliding.

Anyways, I showed up to the scene of the alleged “bike race” with low expectations.  I knew there was a bike culture on the island, but I thought it was limited to the old geezers from mainland France who cycle around their second homes on the resort-lined west coast, creole high schoolers who ALL know how to ride through town busting wheelies, and bike-commuters, such as myself.  I was totally wrong.

Have you ever seen a road bike so tiny?  The helmet on this scout reads “Kiddy”.  WHAT IS HE DOING WITH A BETTER BIKE THAT ME?

Turns out the Reunionese take road racing pretty seriously.  There were events for kids of all ages.  I even ran into one of my students, a 6th grader, pedaling around after his race.  WHAT?

The most advanced category competed in a grueling 2h criterium around downtown Saint-Louis.  I had to restrain myself from jumping in.  It looked so intense and brought me back to my days wearing the Middlebury jersey at intercollegiate races on the East Coast.  Then again, considering the swaying palm trees, the warm sun, and the lack of freezing rain, this was anything but a New England road race.

On the subject of weather, I have been meaning to publish several drafts I’ve written, but I’m going to blame the fact that I haven’t gotten around to it on the weather.  February was BRUTALLY hot, and I just couldn’t be bothered to write anything.  Once the calendar flipped to March, it was like Mother Nature decided to just turn on a fan she had been hiding from us for months, and the island was invaded by nice, southerly breezes bringing in cooler, drier air.  At that point, it was too nice to stay inside.  So I ventured out again, and unfortunately for my blog, continued to abstain from writing.

Nonetheless, I find myself on vacation, yet again, and the extra time is affording me a moment to write again.

I am looking forward very much to a visit from my brother, mom, and dad next week.

Next project?  Get the volcano to start erupting again in time for their arrival.

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Filed under Bikes, Créole

Wipeout!

I wish I was talking about surfing.  Not yet.

On the other hand, this is what Lonely Planet says about biking on Reunion:

“The traffic, the haste of most motorists, and the steep and precarious nature of the mountainous roads means that those considering cycling as a form of transport in Reunion should be prepared for some hair-raising and potentially dangerous situations.”

This explains the incredulous looks I get from pretty much everybody when I explain that I bike to school every day from Saint-Pierre.

To get to the point, I had my first “hair-raising and potentially dangerous situation” on my bike today.  I was descending the switchbacks from my middle school, which is at about 900 feet of elevation above the coast, and a truck coming up the mountain took one a little wide and forced me onto the shoulder where my wheels caught loose gravel and I sideswiped the concrete wall at the edge of the cliff.  I felt kinda like a Nascar sliding out and smashing into the wall on a turn, except that there was no shower of sparks or flying debris, and I was going about 180mph slower than a Nascar.  But you get the image.  A couple bandaids to the calf and I was ready to roll again.

In other news, the government has designated this weekend as an occasion for anti-mosquito initiatives and awareness campaigns to prevent bug-born diseases, like Chikungungya, which is both a mouthful to say and something you really don’t want to catch.  Everyone keeps complaining about how bad the mosquitos are, but I literally have only been bitten once and rarely ever see them.  My German housemate insisted on installing a mosquito net above her bed, which is just absurd.  Mosquitos here got nothin’ on our American suckers.

There’s something to be thankful for.

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Filed under Bikes, EXTREME, Holidays

It’s a vicious circle

Despite the heat and hills, both of which are pretty extreme on Reunion, biking is a much more reliable and timely means of getting around the city of Saint-Pierre, as long as you don’t mind arriving to your destination dripping with sweat.  Traffic here just does not flow.  “Embouteillages” – French for traffic jams – are said to be a Reunionese specialty.  Like a child carrying a mountain of laundry down stairs to be washed, piled far higher than he could ever see around and dropping socks along the way, there are trucks bursting at the seams with sugar cane that bump and wobble precariously down the streets, losing its load with every bump.  I have even seen “les charettes bouefs” – carts pulled by oxen –  backing up traffic on the main highway.  Not something you expect to see in “France”.

I think I have only seen two traffic lights in the whole south of Reunion.  Roundabouts and ralentisseurs – speed bumps – are the two most frequently encountered means of traffic control.  It makes biking really fun.  Apparently, roundabouts are on the rise in the US too, but the problem is that “Americans just don’t know how to navigate them“.  Get it together, America!

If I can’t find work for next year, I think I will take it upon myself to advocate against the unfair treatment of the roundabout in America.

I hope it doesn’t come to that though.

PS I’m supposed to be hiking Piton des Neiges, the highest point on the island and the entire Indian Ocean, but I stayed up until 4AM last night with some other English assistants and so we were too tired to go.  Conspiracy theory continues.

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Filed under At four in the morning, Bikes

This is my commute

I am an assistant at three schools: Collège Hégésippe Hoaro (a middle school), Collège Plateau Goyaves (another middle school), and Lycée Jean Joly (a high school).  Getting to all three of them involves climbing up the steep slopes away from the beach and towards the interior.  The road you take to get there is like something from Legends of the Hidden Temple, no kidding: volcanic clifs, crumbling ruins, scary looking plant life, churning rivers, and super twisty roads.  Why take the bus when I could pretend I’m on a 90’s TV game show on my bike?!

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Filed under Bikes, EXTREME