The Camino de Santiago, or Way of Saint James, is a network of pilgrims' ways originating in Western Europe that all end at the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great. Located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in Northwestern Spain, it is said that around 200,000 people a year make the pilgrimage along one of its routes.
So when SILCA ambassador and photographer Frank van der Sman decided that he was going to make this pilgrimage by bike, we saw this as a great opportunity to put our on-the-bike product line to the test.
Words and photos by Frank van der Sman
It's the middle of the day, we are in the middle of France, also known as the middle of nowhere. Endless fields of grain. As far as the eye reaches.
There is a whole lot of nothing down here. Except for maybe the small empty towns we pass every now and again. Everyone like the last. A little church, usually with the door shut. A barking dog or two behind closed fences. A cat crossing the road. But not a single soul in sight, which makes you wonder if anyone actually lives there. Then again, why would they.
Italian Army Knife Venti
All three riders carried the Venti
"This came in handy a couple times. My wheels were new and the rear hub developed some play, something that could go bad over time yet we caught it in time. The integration of a chain tool with the disc pad spreader is also very clever and keeps the tool compact."
It's a hot day and we're taking a short break by the side of the road. Each of us doing our own little routine. Katjun likes to stretch a lot, each time he gets off his bike. Keng checking his phone, to guess where we will end up that day, trying to find a place to stay. Myself digging into the snacks.
TATTICO Bluetooth Mini-Pump
Frank and Keng both carried the TATTICO Bluetoooth.
"On an unsupported trip like this there's no room to carry a floor pump but with the Bluetooth version of the TATTICO there's no need to. Before beginning each day, I'd check to see what my pressure was and make adjustments with the mini-pump accordingly. It also bailed Keng out twice when his tire blew off the rim."
We've been on the road for seven days at this point. We left from Maastricht, a place down south in The Netherlands, most known for its Amstel Gold Race. Lesser known is the fact it is also one of the many starting locations throughout Europe for the Camino de Santiago, the notorious pilgrimage which is what we set out to do.
Doing the Camino de Santiago is actually something Keng came up with, "you know what would be a fun idea...". A walking trip that would be hard to fit within our millennial freelancer lifestyles, sorry, even writing that down makes me cringe really hard. Yet I enjoyed the sound of doing it, so proposed the typical "let's do it by bike". And with that began the beginning of our journey, the type you don't actually expect will happen, but here we are. And as the days go by we start to get in a rhythm...
07:15 Alarm, snooze
07:30 Get out of bed
07:35 Pack bags
08:00 Have or get breakfast
09:00 Roll out
09:30 Actually roll out
10:00 Take jackets/ gilets off
11:00 Snack break
13:00 Find some lunch
15:00 Complain about everything, find a town to sleep in
16:00 Drop the hammer on the last stretch
17:30 Get to the next place to sleep
18:00 Quick shower, get ready for dinner
19:00 Wander around town
19:30 Sit down for dinner
10:00 Return to the place for sleeping
10:15 Watch some television we can't understand
11:30 Lights off, time for bed.
Every day we're excited about how far we've come, and daunted by the distance we still have in front of us. Every day we're also trying to figure out why exactly we are doing this. I think deep down we all have our own reasons. But it's at these insignificant moments, by the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere of France, when you start to find some answers. Simply by putting yourself into these type-2-fun situations, these long seemingly endless stretches of discomfort, you slowly start to figure out what you're after. May it be peace of mind, appreciation of simple things or inspiration from random places and people. Mile for mile, we're getting somewhere.
Speed Capsule TT
Keng mounted the Speed Capsule TT to the top of his 3T Exploro
"This truly is the perfect bag for your essentials. It's important to have fast access to a couple of things, so you don't waste a ton of time on packing/ un-packing. We mostly used this as a charging station for our electronics with some external batteries inside. As well being the home for emergency food and the Italian Army Knife Venti."
When we finally found are way to the guest house there was no food to be found in any close proximity. So we sat down at the closest cafe with a beer, ready to accept that a protein bar and some jelly beans were going to be dinner. The locals at the bar happened to be English, we started chatting them at some point and they invited us to their house almost instantly. Sami made us dinner while her 13 year old daughter Lola gave us a tour of the beautiful village. It's amazing how a seemingly desperate situation can turn around completely and become one of the best memories of the entire ride.
In the end it took us 16 days and 2146 km, to the beautiful, yet slightly underwhelming city of Santiago de Compostela. There was the short lasting gratification of reaching our goal, but more so the confirmation that a pilgrimage is truly about the journey.