Via Francigena, Day 5/29: From Tergnier (Auberge de Villequier) to Reims

"A journey becomes a pilgrimage as we discover, day by day, that the distance traveled is less important than the experience gained.", Ernest Kurtz

In this post…

  1. Introduction
  2. The statistics and metrics of the day
  3. The most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts
  4. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 17, from Tergnier (Auberge de  Villequier) to Laon
  5. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 18, from Laon to Corbeny
  6. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stages 19 and 20, from Corbeny to Reims
  7. Video footage recorded during a short walk in Reims’ City Centre
  8. Pictures of the day.


Post about the 4th (and 5th) day of journey, published on 10th August 2016This post complements the post I published on the 10th of August 2016 in which I described the experiences I had on the 3rd of August 2016 while riding between Tergnier and Reims, including the additional (and unnecessary, might I add) ride from the Auberge de Villequier, where I spent the night before, back to Tergnier . I am not going to repeat the content of that post in this one again, but I will try to add a few highlights for each one of the stages below. I encourage you to read the previous post before continuing on this one.

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Statistics and metrics of the day

  • Date: Wednesday, 3rd of August 2016
  • Route: From Tergnier (incl. an additional, and unnecessary 7.41 Km to the Auberge de Villequier where I spent the night) to Reims.
  • Distance: 89.65 Km
  • Departure time from Tergnier: Around 9:05h.
  • Arrival at Reims: Around 18:15h
  • Duration of day’s Journey: 9h 11min
  • Expenses this day: Total = € 54.50
  • Overnight Location: Hotel Le Monopole, +33 3 26 47 10 33
  • Type of Accommodation: Hotel
  • Lightfoot Guide Stages:
  • Physical and Body Stats: Link to the Garmin Connect Page for this ride
    • Duration: 9h 11min
    • Moving time: 5h 33min
    • Average Speed: 9.8 Km/h
    • Average Moving Speed:  16.1 Km/h
    • Max. Speed: 57.5 Km/h
    • Total Elevation Gain: 625 m
    • Average Heart Rate: 125 bpm
    • Max. Heart Rate: 164 bpm
    • Calories: 3,048 CAL
    • Number of Pedal Strokes (Cadence sensor): 17,747

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Most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts:

  • Starting a bike ride under heavy rain is always a challenge for me. Yet, I don’t mind if it starts to rain in the middle of the ride. Go figure!
  • The extra 15 or so Kilometres I rode to and from the Village of Villequier (Auberge where I stayed that night) should be deducted from the total distance to Rome. It was an unnecessary detour
  • The translation of the word “Auberge” (hostel) has different meanings in different languages. In Spanish (Albergue) those are the most common pilgrim accommodations along the Camino de Santiago. In French they are similar to a hotel. In Portuguese (Brazil) they are usually understood as being a shelter house for the homeless.
  • Be prepared to push your bike up to the cathedral / town centre in Laon. Very steep inclines.
  • Laon’s Tourist Information office is conveniently located right besides the cathedral. You can get your pilgrim’s credentials stamped there.
  • 20160803_155420When leaving Laon, if using Google Maps to navigate, beware the App will lead you to a footpath which has very narrow restriction bars at the end. Thankfully, even with all the panniers and load on the bike, I’ve managed to get passed them by raising the bike vertically, but it wasn’t easy.
  • During a water rest at the church in  Corbeny I looked at the guide and decided to skip Hermonville and ride straight to Reims. I wanted to stay in Reims and didn’t want to arrive too late there, so I could have a chance to walk around to city to get to know it a little. I think it was a wise decision, but that was, I believe, the last time I decided to skip a stage in the guide. It wouldn’t have taken me much longer to ride to Hermonville and from there to Reims.
  • The road to Reims was quite busy and no hard shoulder to ride on. Although I did not feel unsafe, I would advise caution. I am inclined to believe the Lightfoot recommended route is probably a better option in terms of vehicle traffic.
  • P1010430Reims is a city worth spending time. The cathedral is pretty amazing, even with all the scaffolding at the time. The city centre is lively with lots of things to see. The opera house (which I called a theater in the video) has some pretty interesting colour changing lighting in addition to being a very interesting building. Reims is also the French capital of Champagne and you will find references to it in many places like in the tourist information office. You can book visitations and Champagne tasting tours to many of the local producing houses. According to Wikipedia, Champagne ages in the many caves and tunnels under Reims, which form a sort of maze below the city. Carved from chalk, some of these passages date back to Roman times. The a look at the footage I recorded during my short walk around the city centre.

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 17, from Tergnier (Auberge de Villequier) to Laon

Video Length: 8 min and 40 sec
To skip introductions and recommendations jump to time stamp 0:35 in the video timeline.

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 18, From Laon to Corbeny

Video Length: 5 min 29 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stages 19 and 20, From Corbeny to Reims

Video Length: 6 min 55 sec

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Video footage recorded during a short walk in Reims’ City Centre

Video Length: 4 min 15 sec

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Pictures of the day.

Click on any picture for full detail

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If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message through the contact form.
Please subscribe to my Blog and/or to my YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss the next one and help me spread the word by liking and sharing my Facebook Page and Tweeter feed also.
Thank you for your time!

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The "Faith's Way" (Caminho da Fé).

Logo of Caminho da Fé
Logo of Caminho da Fé

Dear EyeCycled friends,

it gives me great pleasure to announce to you all that next week I will start my 3rd Christian Pilgrimage by bike. It’s called “Caminho da Fé” which literally translated to English means “The Faith’s way”, but it is also sometimes translated as “The walk of faith”.  This pilgrimage route is now considered to be the Brazilian equivalent of  the way of St. James or Camino de Santiago, which I’ve done in 2015.

There is extensive material about the “Caminho da Fé” on the Internet, but in Portuguese only.  I could not find much in English, so the English version of this post will be more detailed than it’s Portuguese one, so to give you guys more background information of what the pilgrimage is all about (most links on these page will open to English Language resources though).

Brazilians have been walking to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida for generations. Many to fulfil religious promises (i.e. to obtain a cure for some illness or for other types of graces), others for cheer devotion. With 18,000 m2  (190,000 sq ft), the basilica is the 2nd largest catholic church in the world losing only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.

Map of the
Map of the “Caminho da Fé” (click to open. Source AACF)

In 2003 a group of pilgrims who had walked to Santiago de Compostela a couple of times decided to create a pilgrimage route between Aguas da Prata in the Federal State of São Paulo and the Basilica, in Aparecida do Norte, 318 Km away on the designed route (walking paths). Currently, however, the route has many, so called, “branches” all of them starting from different cities, but passing through Aguas da Prata, on the original route designed in 2003. These, in turn, have also a few options which may increase or decrease the distance between the starting point and Aparecida do Norte. The branches are as follows:

#BranchDistance in Km
Option 1: Via the town of Pindamonhangaba
Distance in Km
Option 2: Via the town of Guaratinguetá
1Aguaí to Aparecida364341
2Aguas da Prata to Aparecida318295
3Caconde to Aparecida390367
4Mococa to Aparecida408385
5São Carlos to Aparecida536513
6Sertãozinho to Aparecida571548
7Tambaú to Aparecida424401

Source: AACF (Friends of the “Caminho” Association. Site in Portuguese only)

I’ve chosen the longest path, starting from Sertãozinho, not necessarily because I want to ride more (although this was one of the reasons), but because of logistics. There is a direct bus from my current whereabouts to Ribeirão Preto, a city only 20 Km from Sertãozinho, so I only need take 1 bus journey (of 12 h though) to get to my starting point.

My entire journey will start on the early hours of Sunday, the 18th of September, with the bus to Ribeirão Preto. From Ribeirão Preto to Sertãozinho there is a short distance of just over 20 Km, perfectly doable by bicycle, but I’ve been advised to avoid this track because it goes through some high crime areas between the 2 towns (in Brazil, unfortunately, this is a constant worry).

So, as I arrive in Ribeirão Preto I may take yet another bus journey, a short one though, to Sertãozinho, or, if I am feeling adventurous, ride my bike (generally speaking armed thieves steal the entire bike with everything on it, and on the rider… it would be a shame if my pilgrimage was to end before it could even begin though).

In Sertãozinho I will overnight in the Agapito Hotel, one of the few places where you can buy the pilgrim’s credentials, which, exactly like in the Way of Saint James, you will need to stamp along the way in order to obtain the certificate of completion as you arrive in the Basilica in Aparecida do Norte.

Typical “Caminho da Fé” Pilgrim’s Credentials (extrenal link. Click to open it on source site)

From Sertãozinho I’ll let faith take me (no pun intended). I was going to purchase the excellent “Caminho da Fé” guide (link in Portuguese only) from Antonio Olinto, but I didn’t get to do it, so I will simply follow the yellow arrows (another thing copied from the the way of St. James / Camino de Santiago).

My two previous pilgrimages experiences taught me a lot and minimised a number of fears I had before I started. This one, in Brazil, is a bit different than the previous two as it introduces the fear of being victim to the social / economic situation of the country. Not that being a victim of crime isn’t a possibility during the Camino de Santiago where even murders of pilgrims are know to happen, but it is a question of the likehood of it happening, which in Brazil is much higher than in countries of the European Union.

The good thing about starting my pilgrimage on the 19th of September, though, is that I apparently will not be doing it alone, as I originally thought I would. I found out today that a crew of the Brazilian TV network “Globo” will be recording a program about the “Caminho da Fé” and that the main reporter, who I had the pleasure of talking to on the phone today, will also be riding on a bike all the way to Aparecida, supposedly followed by his TV crew. Who knows, I might even appear on the telly, which is an unexpected surprise. Life does have a way to surprise you, if you give it a chance.

As usual, I will try to post as much as I can along the way, but experience has thought me that any posts are more likely to happen on the EyeCycled Facebook page than on the blog. So, please, if you have not done so yet, and would like to follow me on this little adventure, make sure you like the page.

If you’ve seen my previous post, you’ll be aware that I recently lost a “non-human” friend, my trusted Dell XPS 15 notebook, which I used to edit the videos for the YouTube channel and create content for the blog. As with previous pilgrimages, I fully intent to cover the entire route of the “Caminho da Fé” with time-lapsed videos and bring as much info and media to you as possible. Without a proper computer that might take awhile though, but don’t give up on me. Like “Arnie”, I’ll be back!

“Buen Camino!” or in this case “Bom Caminho!”

PS. If you can read in Portuguese, the site of the AACF (Friends of the “Caminho” Association) is an excellent source of information.


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Mourning the death of a dear and close companion

Dear EyeCycled friends,

I am mourning the death of very dear and close companion of mine. My Dell XPS 15 Laptop  😭.
It was the tool I used to edit my cycling videos and to write my blog posts.

Unfortunately I am in a situation that prevents me to buy a replacement right now and the computer I am using to write this post is old and not powerful enough to encode even the less demanding of videos, so please forgive me in advance if you don’t hear from my in a few months. Any posts I may write in the period will lack videos or things that require more computing power.

In the mean time, I will look for alternatives, but I am not enthusiastic about the prospects as my laptop will probably need a motherboard replacement, which is almost as expensive as a brand new one itself.

I had just finished editing all the videos for day 5 of my Via Francigena pilgrimage last year and was (slowly) uploading them to YouTube (it takes almost 10 h to upload these videos with my current bandwidth). I managed to upload the 1st of the 3 videos for day 5 and had the other 2 ready for upload in my laptop’s hard drive, which I now have no access to (my laptop had a special mSATA drive as the boot drive and that is where the videos are). If I do, however… somehow, manage to access the other 2 videos I will try uploading them to YouTube and will publish the post.

I am also preparing for my upcoming cycling pilgrimage on the “Caminho da Fe” (Faith’s way) which is the Brazilian equivalent of the Caminho de Santiago. I should start next week if everything goes as planned, but I will write a separate post once everything is confirmed.

Apologies once again, but assuming you’re all used to travelling by bike you will know that “shit happens!”

R.I.P. Dell XPS 15… 🙁

Continue reading Mourning the death of a dear and close companion

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A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet.

The original quote is “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” and it is attributed to  William Butler Yeats an Irish poet who won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1923.

This saying became ingrained in the Irish culture as the Irish are known for their hospitality and friendliness towards strangers.

Even with the current dangers of being too open to strangers, online or not, whenever I can I try to live by this, especially if I find strangers who share the same passions I do.

Through the passion of cycling, I’ve made “virtual friends” (Facebook mostly) in practically all continents of the planet, the vast majority of them, I’ve never seen personally. Maybe some of the people reading this post will recognize themselves in this category and will understand that the power of the Internet plus a shared passion is all you need to bring people together, regardless of physical distance or language barriers (Google Translate and others are also a big help).

Despite all the technological advances, in my humble opinion, nothing replaces the joy of meeting someone new in person, that is why it makes me so happy when I have the opportunity to actually meet face to face some of my “virtual friends”. A couple of weeks ago I had such an opportunity… 🙂

From left to right, Ada Cordeiro, Julie Assêncio, Thiago Ruiz and I
From left to right, Ada Cordeiro, Julie Assêncio, Thiago Ruiz and I.

I met Julie Assêncio and Thiago Ferreira Ruiz, a couple I’ve been following for a few years and Ada Cordeiro, a young lady I’ve also been following since the beginning of her South American tour about 2 years ago. They have all completed their journeys and are back to their (it I may say so) “normal” lives, in Brasilia, Brazil’s Federal Capital.

The English and Portuguese versions of this post are different because their blogs are available in Portuguese only, so I want to give the English speakers reading this post a little more background info.

Julie and Thiago started their 10,000 Km cycling tour in Portugal in 2014, which took them to 20 different countries in a period of about 18 months. Portuguese speakers can, obviously, go to their Blog and read about their amazing journey themselves.

Their blog is called “Dioca na Estrada” (Dioca on the road) and the link is

In Europe their journey took them to Portugal, Spain, Andorra, France, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgary, Turkey and Holland. They also pedaled in Índia, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and upon returning to Brazil they pedaled from Rio de Janeiro to their home adding more than 1,000 Km to their journey in Brazil as well.

Ada Cordeiro is a young lady I have been following through Facebook and other social media means since the start of her incredible 23,000 Km journey by bicycle around South America. Her blog is apply named “PedalADAs” in which the “ADA” part refers to her first name and “Pedal” means is Portuguese the same it does in English (the foot-operated levers used for powering a bicycle or other vehicle propelled by the legs, if you are in doubt 🙂 ).

In Portuguese “Pedalar” is the act of pedaling… well, enough of that… I think you get the point 🙂

As with Julie and Thiago’s blog, Ada’s blog is only available in Portuguese. Her blog is here:

This video summarizes in 5 min her incredible journey.

Even if you are not able to read in Portuguese, I suggest you visit their blog anyway, if only for the wonderful pictures they posted along the way.

Anyway, I just wanted to leave a record of my meeting with them as an evidence that anything is possible, because as I started to follow them I would have never expected to meet them in person.

If you are reading this and are still not a member of my circle of virtual friends, please don’t hesitate to send in a request, but also don’t be mad at me if I do some checking first, such as to loo through your profile and call you in messenger for a chat.

It’s a shame that a certain degree of care is necessary in our society these days.

Take care and keep the wheels turning…

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More Jataí (Brazil) Bike Rides

I am on holidays… but not on holidays from my bike. Cycling is one of the things I like to do most and there is no holiday, or life, without it. I am trying to cycle at least 3x a week, but I have avoided cycling alone here because of the risk of being robbed and having my bike stolen. Unfortunately this is a real and relatively likely occurrence here.

Over the past few weeks I have recorded a few rides and some video clips I want to share with you, so you have an idea of what it is to cycle over here. I am also preparing myself to this year’s pilgrimage on the so called “Caminho da Fé” (Faith’s way).

Will write more about this at the end of this post. For now let’s see the videos, shall we?

Bike ride between the Diacuy Lake and Bom Sucesso lake

I believe these are the 2 biggest lakes in town, but I might be wrong. I did this ride with my brother and our destination was in fact the thermal waters club located on the shores of the Bom Sucesso lake.

I think the distance between the 2 lakes is just under 16 Km, but we rode alongside the lake for a while until we went to the club. The Thermas Park Club is a publicly own club of thermal waters in which the water comes out of a deep well apparently more than 1,000m deep. The average temperature of the water is 40 Celsius. A very relaxing bath at a reasonable price.

Saturday bike rides with friends

Saturday Morning Cycling Team (one missing)
Group of friends of our Saturday bike ride (1 is missing)

Every Saturday morning I join a small group of friends to ride approx 25 Km. The bike ride includes a breakfast stop at the farm of one of the members of our group where we enjoy some local culinary delights, such as “Pão de Queijo” (cheese bread), Banana cake, local pastries, coffee, freshly milked milk from their own cows and fried eggs from their own chickens. What more can I ask for.

On our way back I recorded a short clip of the descent into town including a “selfie” with the team (one was missing that day) at the JK Memorial lake (JK stands for Juscelino Kubitschek, Brazil’s 21st president, who choose the town of Jataí on the 4th of April 1955 to announce the construction of Brazil’s new capital, Brasilia, hence the reason for the memorial).

Sunset cycling with my girlfriend.

IMG_20170806_175809The 3rd and last video clip of this post was last week, recorded with my mobile phone while an early evening ride with my girlfriend. During the ride we witnessed one of nature’s most spectacular scenes: The sunset.

I experienced the sunset in many places on Earth, but the sunset here was a little bit more special here than elsewhere, first because of the company I was sharing the moment with and second because the air is very dry here, so you get a very clear view. I had a great time, but don’t take my word for it, watch the video until the end.

If you want to see the pictures taken during these rides, take a look at the Flicker Album below (includes pictures taken in other occasions, not only during the rides above)…

Caminho da Fé

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I plan to do another cycling pilgrimage this year.

Although not as extensive as the Via Francigena, that I’ve done last year, or the Camino de Santiago, that I’ve done in 2015, the “Caminho da Fé” (Faith’s way) is equally challenging due to the difficult terrain, mostly on farm roads (sandy ones likely) and the need to overcome 3 mountains along the way. My biggest challenge has been, so far, the logistics of getting to the starting point with my bike and then back from the town of Aparecida do Norte (the pilgrimage’s destination) to Jataí.

As I will likely be by myself (still on the look for partner though) the best option appears to be a bus from Jataí to the city of Ribeirão Preto (about 700 Km by bus), in the state of São Paulo, then ride the 20 Km from Ribeirão to the town of Sertãozinho (the furthest point from Aparecida do Norte), overnight in a pilgrim’s hotel, and start the ride to Aparecida do Norte (estimated distance of 540 Km) the next day.

It has been a bit difficult to estimate the duration of this pilgrimage as I keep getting conflicting information (some say a week, others 15 days and some took 19 days to complete). The return is a little bit more challenging as it likely will require 2 bus trips, the first from Aparecida do Norte to the city of São Paulo (the capital of the state of São Paulo) and then from there back to Jataí, a bus trip of more than 1,000 Km by bus.

I was planning to do this in August, but due to some personal reasons I’ll have to transfer it to September.

Stay tuned on for more.


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Jataí Mountain Biking Marathon, Brazil

On the 9th of July I attended the Mounting Biking Marathon in the town of Jataí, in the state of Goias, Brazil.

It was my first riding experience in Brazil in 15 years (or more) and to me it was very challenging due to the terrain.

I am somewhat used to riding MTB tracks as the Swinley Forest in Bracknell have several, but this type of mountain biking is completely new to me.

Although there were some climbs to conquer, there wasn’t much in term of “mountains” to overcome, but the terrain presented some completely new challenges to me… Fine fine, powder like, sand banks, some of them so deep that a 3rd of the wheel would sink in them, providing virtually no traction and at times completely locking the wheel in place.

The video is rather long (30 minutes), but I hope you can enjoy portions of it, if not all. Was recorded with my GoPRO 4 Silver on a Feiyu Tech Wearable Gimbal.

The event’s Facebook page can be accessed here:

In there you’ll find more details and pictures. Below are the pictures I took during the event.


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Via Francigena, Day 4/29: From Péronne to Tergnier (Auberge de Villequier)

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

In this post…

  1. Introduction
  2. The statistics and metrics of the day
  3. The most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts
  4. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 15, from Péronne to Trefcon
  5. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 16, from Trefcon to Tergnier (and further to the Auberge de Villequier)
  6. Pictures of the day.


Post about the 4th (and 5th) day of journey, published on 10th August 2016
Post about the 4th (and 5th) day of journey, published on 10th August 2016

This post complements the post I published on the 10th of August 2016 in which I described the experiences I had while riding between Péronne and Tergnier, including the additional (and unnecessary, might I add) ride from Tergnier to the Auberge de Villequier, where I spent the night. I am not going to repeat the contents of that post in this one again, but I will add a few highlights for each stage below. I encourage you to read the previous before continuing on this one.

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Statistics and metrics of the day

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Most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts:

  • To go or not to go? Woke up many times during the night to the sound of heavy rain. In the early morning I decided to wait in the tent to see if the rain would stop. It meant that by the time I was done with breakfast and packing it was past 11am in the morning, but I think it proved to be the right decision this time (aided by some weather forecast on the phone). Wasn’t really looking forward to packing my gear under rain. The rain resumed just after I left, so I guess I can consider it a lucky dry window, just long enough for me to pack my gear.
  • Château de Péronne
    Château de Péronne

    After leaving the Camping Site the first stop was at Péronne’s tourism information office in the town centre to collect a stamp on my Pilgrim’s Credential. As I was late I couldn’t really explore the town. As with many other towns and villages I’ve been through, Péronne looked like it would have been worth at least a few hours, if I had time to spare.

  • Again and again, Google Maps is good, especially to those like me that are “navigation challenged”. One problem for cyclists is that it tries, as much as it can, to guide the cyclists away from heavy vehicle traffic. Yes, this is good, but it also means it guides you to paths that during or after heavy rain might be very challenging to transpose. As I left Pèronne Google Maps instructed me to leave the “D” road I was to some dirt paths that were very muddy, only to guide me back to the same “D” road about 1.5 Km later. When you don’t know the way, the decision is not always easy. Overall Google Maps helped me more than it hindered me though.
  • The ride to Trefcon was uneventful and the village itself is tiny and it appeared to be completely deserted.
  • It rained basically all day that day (on and off) and after leaving Trefcon the route was mostly on good roads up to the town of Montescourt-Lizerolles, where Google Maps instructed to take a path alongside the railway. The terrain was somewhat challenging as the Swalbe Marathon tyres I have in the bike are not really suited for them. After overcoming the path, I decided not to follow the route Google had planned and take my chances on the major “D” road, the D1, that took me straight to Tergnier. The traffic was intense and the road had guard-rails and no hard-shoulder. I don’t recommend this route, but on hindsight I believe it was the right decision, albeit somewhat riskier than to stick (no pun intended) to the dirt paths.
  • Riding under constant rain is not really fun, but the main challenge, besides the muddy paths, was the strong wind which slowed me down considerably and took away the high visibility orange flag I had in th back of the bike. I arrived in Tergnier tired and feeling a bit ill, probably due to the wet conditions (I am slightly asthmatic and humidity is not a good thing for me). The town hall was closed, so I turned to Google again for a place to sleep and the 1st option Google gave me was a hotel / hostel in the nearby village of Villequier.
    Dinner at the Auberge de Villequier
    Dinner at the Auberge de Villequier

    The concept of “nearby” changes when you are travelling on the bike though. It took me almost 1h riding in the wrong direction (as I found out the next day) to get there, but the Auberge is lovely and the owners were very nice to me. The room was small, but big enough to wash and dry my wet clothes and dry the tent and camping equipment. Also enjoyed a very nice meal that night, my personal reward for a hard day of cycling under rain.

  • Took very few pictures during the day. The rain was the biggest contributor to this, but in all honesty I did not feel like there were a lot of picture worthy moments anyway.

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 15, from Péronne to Trefcon

Video Length: 4 min and 45 sec
To skip introductions and recommendations jump to time stamp 0:40 in the video timeline.

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 16, From Trefcon to Tergnier (and further to the Auberge de Villequier)

Video Length: 9 min 42 sec
To skip introductions and recommendations jump to time stamp 0:38 in the video timeline.

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Pictures of the day.

Click on any picture for full detail

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If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message through the contact form.

Please subscribe to my Blog and/or to my YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss the next one and help me spread the word by liking and sharing my Facebook Page and Tweeter feed also.

Thank you for your time!

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What's a Gimbal?

According to Wikipedia a Gimbal is a pivoted support that allows the rotation of an object about a single axis. Interestingly , gimbals pre-date Jesus Christ by almost 300 years, yet if you are not a rocket or aeronautical engineer or a film maker you’re likely to never have heard of this device.

As this post got a little longer than I originally expected I also recorded a short video to demonstrate the device.

Further down the page you’ll see a few recorded test rides I did with the gimbal mounted on the handlebar and on a chest strap.

When I started recording my bike rides the one thing that became impossible to miss is the shaking, especially if the camera is mounted directly onto the bike and not worn by the cyclist (like on top of a helmet or on a chest strap).

Digital Image Stabilization can significantly improve the image quality, but there is a limit to what it can do, at least in commercially affordable cameras. As the 1st action camera I bought didn’t have it, before going on the Camino de Santiago I decided to invest a little more and bought myself a Sony HDR-AS30V which I reviewed, or rather, wrote about in July 2015 (it was a long post about all the cameras of my life).

I like this Sony camera, but as I started to do more and more videos I took yet another step and spent a little more money on a more professional GoPRO 4 Silver camera, which I also wrote about on this post in November 2015. Even in a similar configuration it is hard to miss the fact that the GoPRO records almost 3x more information than the Sony Camera does (the file sizes are an indication, even if not a very scientific one), yet the GoPRO still didn’t solve the problem of the shaking. As a matter of fact, it made it even worse as in generation 4 GoPRO took away digital image stabilization completely. So, the result ended up being a very nice, but “shaky” Ultra-Def picture which can be seen in all videos I recorded during my Via Francigena pilgrimage to Rome last year, made worse by the fact I record everything in time-lapse, so everything looks extremely accelerated.

Looking into solutions to minimize the shaking is when I found there are such things as 3-axis motorized devices that keep the camera steady, as well as things like mechanical steady cams often used by film makers, which are however, bulky and large as they work with counter balancing weights. The solution appeared to be one of these devices that would mechanically keep the camera steady. To fully stabilize a camera the device needs to move in all 3-axis (X, Y and Z in 3 dimensions), so it needs to have 3 motors, hence the title 3-axis gimbal (there are gimbals that stabilize the camera in only 1 or 2 axis as well).

GoPRO launched itself such a device in October 2016 called the “Karma Grip” to fit as a stand-alone device or the be used in conjunction with their Drone of the same name (the “Karma Drone”… GoPRO has a lot of Karma). By doing that GoPRO actually entered this action-cam accessory market quite late as many Chinese companies were already profiting from it for years. At £250 (or USD 320 at time of writing) it was just as expensive as my GoPRO 4 Silver itself, and just under the Black version, their flagship model (now replaced by their GoPRO 5 camera).

Even though, as I mentioned before, Chinese manufacturers appeared to be quick to profit in this action camera / GoPRO corner, this market is relatively new and the options are relatively limited. I watched quite a few YouTube videos reviewing some of these devices. At the end, price together with the fact I wanted to use one for cycling became the strongest factors.

For those who money is not an issue, one new device launched earlier this year (2017) appeared to check all my boxes as it is also additionally waterproof, but at a cost of £350 (even more than the GoPRO one), the Removu S1 gimbal was even more out of reach.

Even on the lower end part of the market, gimbals are selling for £150 to £200, which I considered to be too much money to spend on a hobby for an amateur, not to mention it becomes one more thing to carry and charge during bike rides… Yet I bought one, after all. So what made me change my mind?

Watching my own videos made me change my mind! I think I am a bit of a perfectionist, I am afraid (not easy to be a perfectionist on a low income, but I try). While on my cycling trips I spent a lot of time caring about these things… making sure the camera is rolling and everything else is as good as it can be on my cheap setup, sometimes even to the point of feeling a little bit guilty as I should just be enjoying myself. After the trip I spend countless hours editing these videos, making sure I can make them as good as they can be, taking into consideration my equipment, skills and knowledge limitations. I’ve learned a lot over the past 2 years and I was becoming a bit irritated with the stabilization barrier. So much time and effort only to be challenged by a simple mechanical issue (actually simple in terms… “stability” of all sorts has been humankind’s’ greatest challenge for ages).

Neewer Zhiyun Z1-Rider 3-Axis Gimbal
Neewer Zhiyun Z1-Rider 3-Axis Gimbal

So, when I saw a product being sold at a discount price in Amazon, I bit my lips, opened my pocket and went for it. That was a Neewer Zhiyun Z1-Rider. Before you become all too excited, let me quickly tell you that I returned it to Amazon right after my 1st use. I was so disappointed…

In all fairness, I purchased it on an Amazon Warehouse deal, which are not brand new, but this item was listed as “like new”. Perhaps I did receive a faulty item, but to start with the item I received wasn’t exactly the item Amazon had pictured in the page. The Gimbal I received had no tripod screw mount on the bottom and had several exposed wires which immediately made alarm bells sound in my head. GoPRO and other Action Camera gimbals are supposed to be used in rather rough conditions. Having those tiny, and extremely fragile looking, exposed wires did not inspire my confidence. I think later models have solved that issue, but I didn’t have one of those, I had that one. Yet, I decided to give it a go.

On my very 1st use the device could not keep the camera steady for even a few seconds after movement started, tending to point the camera downwards and to the left. At the end of a 15 min ride the bottom motor appeared to developed an even bigger fault being unable to stabilize the camera at all in that axis.

As I was completing the returns form in Amazon, my frustration with having bought a, pardon the word, “crap” device grew, but I continued to watch the market and then I came across a device I had already previously seen in YouTube reviews, the Feiyu FY WG 3 axis Wearable Gimbal.

Feiyu FY WG 3 axis Wearable Gimbal Stabilizer for Gopro Hero 3+ and 4
Feiyu FY WG 3 axis Wearable Gimbal Stabilizer for Gopro Hero 3+ and 4

At least this device withstood the 1st and 2nd rides, so for now it is a keeper. Having had the bad experience before, I actually was already quite excited about this one right at the start during the unboxing. The device feels a lot sturdier and the build quality feels a lot better, just by touching it. It’s an all metal construction, which makes it a little heavier, but then what difference can a dozen grams make for an amateur? In terms of performance I was a bit on edge, but then as I don’t know if any other motorized gimbal is able to perform to my desired standards I am taking it easy on it.

The main problem when recording time-lapse videos from a handlebar mounted camera is vibration, as you perhaps have seen in the review video I posted on top. Unfortunately none of the two gimbals I tried could compensate for these very fast types of tiny movements. I actually don’t know if there is an affordable device in the market today that could do that, so if you know of one, I’d appreciate if you could drop me a comment in this post or send me a message through the contact form.

If you want more detail in terms of the gimbal’s operation, feel free to download the device’s manual straight from the Feiyu Tech’s web side, which also has a number of other downloads available such as the latest gimbal firmware, the software to update the firmware and the USB driver (windows and Mac, I believe).

I think I said and wrote enough… So let’s take a look at the test ride videos, shall we?

This 7 min video shows a test ride where I mounted the gimbal on the bike’s handlebar side by side with the Sony HDR-AS30V I mentioned above. Unfortunately the gimbal was too close the the Sony, so the GoPRO caught the view of the Sony cam on it’s left hand side. Still a watchable video though and I think it should give you an idea not only of the performance of the gimbal, but also of the gimbal vs. Digital Image Stabilization (on the Sony cam)

The next 13 min video is a test ride I did from Slough to Eton with my friend Fernando. We both had good reasons to ride this day (not that we need one). Fernando had just purchased his new touring bike and I wanted to test the gimbal mounted on a GoPRO chest strap.

Feiyu Tech Wearable Gimbal mounted on a GoPRO Chest Strap
Feiyu Tech Wearable Gimbal mounted on a GoPRO Chest Strap

The results are encouraging and wearing it so close to my body reduced the vibrations on the camera quite significantly (and when I tell my girlfriend that I am a stable guy she doubts me, here is the scientific proof of that), but the chest strap had to be quite tight to support the extra weight of the gimbal, which became a bit uncomfortable over time. On this ride I had also mounted the gimbal on a too low position with the GoPro mount attachment connected to the back of the gimbal body, near the battery compartment as shown the the picture below.

GoPRO attachment mount on the back near the battery compartment.
GoPRO attachment mount on the back near the battery compartment.

On my return ride (the next video) I moved the position of the camera in the chest mount used the attachment on the bottom of the gimbal and the camera in inverted position. There improved the picture, but forced me to tighten the chest strap even more. Not sure it is something I would like to wear for 8 to 10 hours non-stop as that is sometimes the length of time I record time-lapse video in 1 day of touring. Time will tell…

So, the next video 1 min video is a time-lapse video recording of a portion of the return journey from Eton to Slough with the bottom of the gimbal attached to the chest strap.

So, I think this is it. Was my 1st “gadget” post in quite a long while, I had to make it count 🙂

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Via Francigena, Day 3/29: From Bruay-la-Buissière to Péronne