We are at the moment somewhere in the south eastern part of Finland near a city named Lappeenrenta. I am sitting on a pier in one of those remote summer houses that finns affectionate so much. In the right hand, a beer. Behind me, the wooden sauna smokes like a papermill. In front of me, the lac spotted by dozens of island cottages. I wait for the sunset that will come around midnight. Emmanuelle is rowing with some friends on a small boat maybe trying to catch some fish.
Everything is peacefull for that first well deserved holiday break within our Azub Twin World Tour. But let’s get a step back to see how we did get there.
Dear reader, that story started a year ago in April 2012, in the french city of Rouen, Normandy (For the atmosphere, I would say without taking much risks that it was a cloudy rainy boring day like everyday in Normandy and if we had a chimney, a strong fire would have been there). Emmanuelle and I were discussing about the fact that we were reaching 26 years old and that we were already trapped in the day to day working routine. Starting a world tour can be the result of months of reflexion for some people. In our case, the decision was taken in a few hours. Enough of that routine, we would hit the road by may 2013 on a tandem bike (we don’t really remember the details of how it came up, but let’s say that only the result is important). That being said, the rest followed quickly. We bought a world map, started a countries wishlist, counted our money, got a regular tandem bike and start to plan secretly every day after work what would later become the Azub Twin World Tour.
You read regular tandem? Well, yes. At the beginning, our tour was not planned to be as fancy as it is today. We were not at all aware of the recumbent bike world (in fact, we were not introduced at all in cyclotourism in general). We bought a Lapierre, a regular tandem mountain bike and start training in may every weekend.
A few weeks later, I started to feel pain on my right hip. A wrong setup of the bike brought me some stress fractures on the pelvis bone. The following 6 months were spent to be able to walk normally again. World bike conquest was a bit forgotten during this laps, and the regular tandem idea had to be definitely trashed away.
As we are a bit stubborn, we still had the world tour idea in a corner of our heads. It is only in december 2012 that we read about recumbent bikes. After investigations, we even discovered on the web what is now often called by the people we encounter the « badass machinery » alias : the Azub Twin. Christophe from ROULCOUCHE, a french dealer had one for trial just near Paris. He was first toughfull about us trying the « Twin » without training on any recumbent bike. After trying an Azub Bufo for a while, we started with the Azub Twin. The first 15 min were a bit epic. But rather quickly we were able to start, turn and stop without frightening too much christophe who was standing by advicing us the best he could. The first meeting with that bike was pretty good.
A few weeks later, we rented his azub Twin for a weekend in the countryside. 100km of cold, slippery, windy, rainy, snowy, icy conditions later, we were completely convinced that it was the perfect match for our world tour. And after two months of riding ours, we are still convinced of that !
We did start over to plan our world tour for real: get rid of our jobs, appartment, car, furnitures, city bikes, order all the necessary gears for that journey, schedule the main milestones, start a budget, order the azub Twin and start to spread the news that we were off for a while to ride the world. Preparation is really part of the journey, and many times, we wondered if we were right to throw ourselves in that crazy adventure.
After some discussions with Azub and Christophe from Roulcouché, they accepted to sponsor that adventure and the « Azub Twin World Tour » was born : a recumbent tandem bike tour around the world, from France to New Zealand with no plane…
Part I : Europe, from France to Finland.
Part II: The Russia crossing and Japan arrival
Part III: From China to South East Asia
Part IV: Australia & arrival in New Zealand
But enough of preparation! The following adventure is provided by Azub & Roulcouché.com.
We departured on the 23rd of May 2013 from the medieval town of Clisson, France. A few kilometers with stephane’s mum and off we were on the road for maybe the next year.
The first few days has been quite difficult because of the complete lack of training on a bike fully loaded. Riding a recumbent bike for the « first time » makes you discover some unknown muscles that need to be strenghten. Hopefully, we are quite good bringing life to those new muscles and we anticipated a bit the phenomenon by planning short steps.
And as images and figures say more than words:
Part I Europe from France to Finland.
3626km at 14,8km/h average speed.
As in 2013, spring has been stolen, we actually did not regret to delay a bit our departure to the end of may. And even then we had nights camping below 0°C. But our state of mind is strong, we are really excited to start our adventurous life. Those first days in our own country were definitely a good idea as we could not really train in advance. We get to adapt smoothly to our nomad life; finding every night a place to stay, camping grounds or get invited by locals. Little by little we get used to people curiosity about this epic bike and liked explaining our mission. As we could have forcasted it the west part of France was quite rainy but we are tough.
After heavy rains, the Loire river is out of its bed and the part of EuroVélo 6 that we planned to ride is under water! The Twin has not yet the submarine option.
We enjoy offering trial session to people welcoming us. As here with Manue’s family.
Stephane takes good care of the Twin, here cleaning the frame and greasing the chain
We are getting used to set the tent every day, we are now done in a few minutes and feel like home as soon as the camp is ready.
Even if we planned to follow coast to have mainly flat land, we encounter some sever hills in the north of France that challenged our brand new leg muscles !
After 3 weeks in France, we crossed the Flamish Belgium border. And then we discovered a whole new world, made for cycling. Flat sunny land with cycle roads along canals. So pleseant to ride, except for the wind that we had in the face for few days. Belgian geography is also optimum : we ride the countryside for 50km and we rach a nice medieval city. Brugges, Ghent, Antwerp share a nice medieval and touristic atmosphere and nice beers pubs, wafles and fries street stands.
In the streets of Brugges when visitig the centrum. We tried to park the Twin as discreetly as possible among the bunch of bikes around but anyway the Twin is huge!
Manue enjoys the central square to train in driving the Twin, she is usually at the back. She is doing all right!
View of Ghent from the castle dunjon. This medieval city crossed by ruvers and canal is really nice to visit.
As we cross belgium, we have to pass many rivers and canals. Bridges but also many boats. We love it!
Arriving in Antwerp, we cross the Schelde river with the pedestrian and cycling tunnel.
Very soon, we are out of Belgium and its medieval cities and reaching holland and its windmills, flat land and windy coast. It is also a place very nice to ride and our trainning goes on gently. In just 2 days we reach Amsterdam and spend a nice week end visiting around. Then we cross huges dams, up tu 30km long. We enjoy the view : sea on both sides, boats, birds… Safely riding on cycling paths. After that, we cross the countryside for few days to get to german border.
Taking a nice break just after entering Netherlands, after Antwerpen huge harbour. Wind turbines along the river. The wind blows in our faces but crossing a new boundary give us power.
Riding along a dam spotted with wind turbines, the wind coming from the side. We love longing the coast.
Arrived in Leiden, next to Amsterdam, in a friend’s place. She tryied and instantly loved the Twin!
Visiting Amsterdam, Stephane is blown by the big boat anchored inside the city!
On the road again, after just 2 days of rest on Leiden, we never get enough of boats, coast and pictures with beacon. Inland, when we cannot see the sea, we enjoy as much canals and their many boats!
Here we are! The biggest dam ever! 30Km of riding in the middle of the sea the power of the wind only equals our excitment!
We are getting good at spotting nices places to stay the night. Best camping place ever along a canal on wich so many big barges sail all night long carrying big containers, cereals …
As we get closer to german border, the weather turns apocaliptical and we cycle under the pouring rain. Our first day in german land is not the best, we get lost and waste time. Back on track, we got hit by a huge pick up, throwing us on the asphalt, breaking differents parts of the Twin. We spend 3 day in a hotel in Oldenburg to recover and list the reparations needed. The rear rim is changed, we need to change two of our three carriers, the back seat handle bar is completely destroyed. Manue need also a check up at the hospital, her hips is severely bruised and walking is painfull. In the end, the X-rays said Manue is all right, we received in a very short time the needed parts from Azub and we find a very nice place to stay for few more days via CouchSurfing. So after one month sharp on the road we get one week of forced rest. When we are ready to hit the road again (softly this time!), it is still rainy and the temperature has droped to an automnal level. Nevermind, we really want to be back on the Twin. We head toward Bremen, then Hamburg where we are surprised to discover a pretty nice city and find a wild couch surfing occasion. Then we hit Lubeck, a very beutiful medieval city before taking a boat to Malmö, Sweden.
Bremen under the rain. Seems like a pretty city though. We should have taken time to visit but the one week stop in Oldenburg made us craving for riding!
Trial of the Twin with our Bremen host
German best invention (after ortlieb bags…) : curryworst!!
Not easy to fit the Twin onboard of a small boat to cross the Elbe river and get to Hamburg
Meeting a huge ship that made Stephane happy for hours!
Visiting while getting lost in Hamburg, an unexpectingly beautiful city.
Among poppies in a wheat field, the sun is back!
Lübeck, another very nice medieval town, our last stop in Germany.
Going onboard on the huge boat that takes us to Sweden
Enjoying sun beams leaving Lübeck to Malmö
As we arrive on Sweden coast, we ride through Malmö to join our couchsurfer’s place. This place is really nice, we have to stop one more day to visit. We’ve just taken the hard decision of skipping Danemark to stay more or less on schedule, the frustration is high. After having spent a day in the city of Malmö, its churches and museums, we take the direction on the south coast.
Sweden is sunny, someone told us it was the best summer in the last 20 years, how lucky we are! We take nices stops by the sea and buy as often as we can stawberries, they are so good! Sweden is very wild and beautiful we hop on Öland island, cross it from south to north and get back on continent. In a few days with a lot of ferries, wild camping and pines forest, we get to Stockholm. We planned on resting a few days while visiting the city. In the end, we camp outside the center and have so much to see that we are exhausted! Then we cross a part of the sea and get to Aland islands, as a gate to finland.
One of our first stops for a lunch break in a small harbour on the south swedish coast.
Sunset on the sea, aproximately 11h pm
In Sweden, in order to avoid big roads and motorways, we sometime ride forest paths or rocky / sandy roads. The Twin doesn’t even mind!
Manue is cooking meatballs for dinner while the Twin is resting.
Sunrise at 4:30am colors are amazing. We do not sleep so much in sweden!
Stephane and the Twin at the end of the world!
Manue and the Twin for a lunch break on the island of Öland.
Visiting the far North end of Öland waiting for the boat to come back on the continent
Another lunch break in the pines foret this time.
Meeting by chance an Azub Tricon rider on his way from Finland to Germany, we exchange advices about the next few days both ways!
One of the multiples ferries that we took to cross rivermouth, we enjoy those sailing breaks!
Finland is our last fully european country. First We stop on Aland islands and then take another huge ferry to Turku and then ride the south coast until we reach Helsinki, a small but very nice capital where we are nicely hosted as couch surfers and attend a couch surfing meeting and meet so many new friends. Riding out of Helsinki, the front tyre flattened and we had to change it. It is the first breakage on the Twin, and it is fast repaired and we do not even delay our day trip to Porvoo. Finland is as sunny as Sweden, the main difference is that it is completely impossible to understand any written finish; on signs or grocery stores. I know it seems crazy but fortunately, everything is translated in swedish so we can understand!
Just before entering Russia, we stop for a 10 days break in a friends house and enjoys pure Finnish tradition : sauna and lake, we also take time to learn how to say beer in Finnish : OLUT! After one month of continuous cycling, we really enjoy this fare-niente time!
Somewhere between Stocholm and Aland islands, huge ships sailing around tiny islands. The archipelago is really impressive
Waiting for the ferry to take us to Turku. The temperature dropped and the wind raised.
Visiting Helsinki, on the sea fortress island of Suomenlina. We loved this calm and preserved island in front of the living city center.
Twin trial session with our Helsinki host, in front of the cathedral. Tourists were suddendly not looking any more at the cathedral!
Nice marina in Porvoo. We have been recommended to see this place and indeed it worth it!
Time for a nice haircut!
Taking rays of sun in the center of Lappeenranta, where the Twin was highly noticed!
Frequently Asked Questions on our way:
Is it easy to ride an azub Twin?
YES ! Don’t be afraid. After 15 minutes of hectic starts and turns, you start to understand how it works. You would probably need a few days to feel completely safe and relax and a few weeks-months to achieve the graal of a « 6 meter wide only U-turn » (require above seat steering). It is stable, and we can ride almost any surface from swedish motorway to forest path even fully loaded.
Is it easy to travel with such a big bike like the Azub Twin?
I would say definitely easier than by normal bikes! Surprised? Then imagine what would be your feeling when seeing such a bike in a city street or on the road? We see smiles all the day long that give us a full bunch of energy. We get to discuss with
hundreds billions of people about our bikes, our journey and eventually about what has to be done, to be seen in the aera. We got invited to stay at strangers place easily. All that definitely overpassed by far the little disagreement of the size of the tandem. And you would be surprise how easy it is to fit the Azub Twin in some tiny space (in a bus, a boat or even a flat …).
And now, the Azub Twin seeker question😉 : what options you think is mandatory for such a tour?
The white brother front fork. It is expensive, that is right. But then, in addition of the confort it can brought to the captain, that is a huge safety gear ! Just imagine riding a 200kg tandem down hill on a sandy road at 35km/h and suddenly, you get a hole wide as the Twin in front of you. Well, the fork absord the shock like any small bumps, and off you go to 45km/h with a screaming stocker😉.!