Tom De Wilde is one of our many incredible ambassadors placed around the world. Born and raised in Brussels, Belgium, Tom has currently given the sedentary lifestyle the boot, and is travelling on his favourite titanium gravel bike, our Kevin across Europe. Tom will be reporting in as he rides, below is part one of his new adventure - Provence to Spain.
Words below by Tom De Wilde
If there is an open road in front of you, go…go…go… says the song from Brussels based band “The Hollywood Bedsheets”. There are turning moments in life when that road opens up in front of you and you just have to go. For me one of those times has come again so I accepted the call of the road but with two conditions - I will pedal it and it will be an unpaved road. Who better than my good old trusty Kev would accompany me best in this adventure?
During my last trip (northern Canada to Argentina, stopped half-way in Guatemala because of COVID) the final and multiple intermediate objectives distracted me too much off the journey itself. Trying not to reproduce my mistakes, or at least not all of them, I decided that this time I will entirely focus on the journey itself. The best way to allow myself to achieve it was easy: do not set any destination!
The first thing this meant was that I wouldn't fly or travel anywhere beforehand but that I would cycle directly from home. Well, almost. Mid November isn’t really the best time of the year for bikepacking neither in Belgium or Switzerland, my two countries. For reasons too long to explain I ended up in France, in the Provence area, the south-oust border of the Alps, a region known for its sunny weather, lavender fields, bright autumn colours and much more. Well, now I had a starting point, no destination and no time limit in front of me but still needed a direction to follow. Winter at our door, it was quite obvious that the first part of the journey would be chasing the sun. Towards the South of Spain I should go. I drew a route crossing the Provence Baronies, a rugged wild and beautifully carved landscape, towards the small city of Ales where I would jump on the European Divide Trail, an unpaved route crossing Europe from Southern Portugal to Northern Norway. It has been a week already into the journey and oh my lord, what a ride! Autumn is such a nice season to travel with its thousands of bright colours, cooler temps and shorter days inviting me to slow down. Having been struggling for months with a fucked up knee caused by the good old IT band syndrome, forcing me to cancel all my 2023 projects and ultras, I have to be very careful with my exercise load. All this is making the perfect mix for mellower days on the saddle. Well, that is not considering the rockiness of the terrain which is terribly fun but tiring to ride on a fully loaded and fully unsuspended rig! From the steep Baronies, to the crazily windy Mediterranean coast (100 km/h gusts!), passing through the Rhone valley and the hilly inner lands mostly on MTB itineraries I made my way to the Spanish border having a blast, everyday amazed by how Kev handles it all with grace and ease, which is not always my case, neither my tubeless set up nor my derailleur hanger. Whoopsie! I did even manage not to get shot by French hunters, the only other humans with whom I am sharing the shrubs at this time of the year.At the time I am writing this, I am regaining some force with friends living in the small city of Narbonne. First night indoors, first real shower (streams and lake are cold in late November), a bit of logistics and a good deal of chill social time later, I am about to cross the first administrative border of the journey. Stay tuned for more news of the journey. Next week Catalonia and GIRONA! Whoop whoop!
Tom's bike and kit set up for this Europe adventure:
Kevin (ti) + ti seatpost
G4T 35mm with Pirelli Cinturato Gravel RC 45mm tubeless
SRAM AXS mullet set up Force/GX 38/10-52
Times atac xc pedals
Garmin Edge 1040 solar computer
Knog blinder 900 & Lezyne Stripe 300 light