INTERVIEW | 10/30/2023

"My tip is to pick a bike that fits your trip!"

Sophie Planque and Jérémy Vaugeois
Andi Spies
Andi Spies

French photojournalist Sophie Planque and her partner Jérémy Vaugeois biked from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Along the way, they not only experienced many ups and downs, but also shot a documentary film of their journey. A 30-minute short version of the film is running in the current program of the European Outdoor Filmtour 2023. At the premiere in Munich, we had the opportunity to meet the two adventurers in person and elicit their tips for long bike trips.

What sparked your passion for cycling?

Jérémy: My passion for being outdoors had existed for a long time. I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, so I hiked a lot. The only tool I had to get around was my own body. On my long hikes, however, it always happened that I didn't have certain practical equipment with me due to lack of space. A bicycle is a great help there. You no longer have to carry luggage on your shoulders and you can cover longer distances. And yet the physical experience is just as intense as hiking.

Sophie: My first longer bike tour was our trip from Alaska to Patagonia. I'd never done multi-day bike tours before. I hiked a lot, even for several weeks, but it would never have occurred to me to get on a bike for this. It wasn't until we both made the plan to do "The Great Traverse" that I realized we couldn't do it on foot. So we did a few bike tours together in the Pyrenees. It wasn't easy for me at first, but the big goal was a huge motivation.

Endless expanses - Sophie, somewhere in Sur Lipez, Bolivia.

Which bike would you recommend to someone for such extremely long tours?

Jérémy: Above all, your bike must be robust and equipped as simply as possible. That's why we opted for Genesis Bikes equiped with Longitude steel frames. We put a lot of weight on the bike and a steel frame is flexible, unlike a carbon frame. And if it breaks, you can weld it. That's what actually happened to me in Peru when I rode through a pothole. In the next town there was a bike store where they welded me the frame again without any problems.

Sophie: My tip: Pick a bike that fits your trip! Do you ride mainly on the road? Or mainly on dirt roads? Or a little bit of everything? Then it is of course also a question of budget. A bike for 800 euros may be a perfect fit for you, and a bike for 2000 euros may not be suitable for your adventure at all. So the most important questions are: What do I want to do with the bike and where should it go?

Sophie Planque (2nd from right) and Jérémy Vaugeois (2nd from left) at the premiere of the European Outdoor Film Tour 2023.

So how did you find your perfect setup?

Sophie: We have been advised in various bike stores and talked to many people about our planned trip. At the Cycles13 bike store in Paris we met a very passionate salesman who took a lot of time for us and together with us has put together frame, components and all attachments.

Jérémy: He was also the first to make sure that the components were also available as spare parts in North and South America. An important point that you should definitely consider on long bikepacking trips.

How did you go about planning your packing list, luggage and bags needed for bikepacking?

Sophie: We were pretty pragmatic about that. First, we laid out the equipment we wanted to take with us. Then, in the next step, we thought about which bags we needed in which size. Beforehand, however, we also did a lot of research on the Internet and on other travel blogs. We also set a rule during the trip in order to not overpack or bring unnecessary things: "If an item is not used at least once a month, there is no reason to carry it from then on".

Jérémy: I started out with panniers on the front and rear wheels. But over time, I realized that the bike is very heavy and unwieldy with the weight on the front tire. The trick is to mount the luggage as centrally as possible on the bike. It makes a big difference whether you attach a heavy tent to the handlebars or on the front rack. With the weight on the rack, the whole bike becomes much more unwieldy.

Photo stop at Sunwapta Pass, Canada.

I see. Now I'd be interested to know how you planned your food and beverage supplies?

Sophie: On this trip, we planned our stages from week to week. Depending on the route, we then had to take along food for two to three days because we didn't pass through any cities along the way. So the route planning had to be designed in such a way that we would pass through cities again within a week so that we could get supplies there.

And it always worked out that way?

Sophie: Almost. Right at the beginning, there was a stage in Alaska where we were on the road autonomously for ten days. And later, in Bolivia, another week. That was really intense.

What was on your menu?

Jérémy: Bread, cheese, sausage and pasta. Lots of pasta. And soups. Also vegetables, fruit and for breakfast especially porridge. You can also dry fruits and vegetables and eat them well during the stages when you don't have any supplies.

Sophie: To eat sensibly, the most important thing is a good stove. We had one from Primus with us, which worked great in any weather and at any altitude. There is nothing more annoying than sitting hungry in front of your stove and the part does not start or burns only on low flame.

About Sophie & Jérémy

34-year-old Sophie Planque is from Versailles and has been working as a journalist for French television for 13 years. Her main focus is on reportage and documentaries. She loves to travel and discover the world - whether on foot, on skis or by bike. Sophie is a member of the Society of French Explorers (SEF).

Jérémy Vaugeois is 35 years old and has worked for many years as a business manager in the ski industry. His passion for nature and adventure was awakened as a teenager. Thus, at the age of 19, he hiked 10,000 kilometres across Europe. Since the Great Traverse, Jérémy has worked as an assistant director for documentaries and as a drone pilot and photographer.

Is there anything unnessessary that you took with you on the trip?

Sophie: I had a little Bluetooth box with me that I didn't use once. I thought maybe I'd turn on some music while I was driving, but somehow I didn't need it. It is much more pleasant to hear and listen to the music of nature if you pay attention to it. It fills the senses and makes you more aware of everything.

Jérémy: Every two months, we went through all our luggage to find things we hadn't used before. So little by little, our spare parts stock got smaller. We had really packed too much stuff. For example, you don't need 20 spare spokes, 5 are enough here.

Where can I see your film in full length?

Sophie: The easiest way is on Vimeo. And on our website we publish all screening dates or festivals where the film will be shown.

The Great Traverse at the E.O.F.T. 2023

Since October, the European Outdoor Film Tour has been touring Europe again. The bike adventure of Sophie and Jérémy is one of the program highlights. All dates of the tour and tickets for the screenings are available on the E.O.F.T. website.

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Andi Spies
Andi Spies
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