Tunnels and bikes – awesome!

In a recent post, I mentioned the fact that we had ridden through some tunnels on our last tour in France. This is seriously great fun, and an interesting way to check out just how good your headlamp actually is!

Only once before have I ridden on my bike in what I would consider ‘genuinely dark’ conditions. On that occasion, we were cycling around a few of the lakes in the Rosnay area (also in France); it was a warm moonless, night and the roads had no guide lines, posts or other reflectors. And it was seriously dark ….. !

The first tunnel we came across.

The first tunnel we came across.

Silhouetted cyclists

Silhouetted cyclists

Our tunnel experience, like that at Rosnay, was totally unexpected. The road between Millau and Albi winds through a deep valley and towards the lower end, it goes through a series of about eight or ten tunnels. Some are quite short, and others are well over a kilometre and curve through the hills which rise above them.

This may not seem like anything of consequence, until you realise (when mid way through) that you can see nothing when looking ‘forward’ and nothing when looking ‘backward’! You are truly in the pitch dark.

What you can see when you cycle through one of the tunnels between Millau and Albi.

What you can see when you cycle through one of the tunnels between Millau and Albi.

A rail bridge - with no rails or trains.

A rail bridge – with no rails or trains.

Not a great deal of room for a car and a cyclist!

Not a great deal of room for a car and a cyclist!

The tunnels were originally designed to accommodate a railway line and the route has numerous narrow bridges as well as the tunnels – all that is missing is the track and the trains! But the melancholy sound of the train whistle will never be heard along this valley – which I think is rather a shame, because the scenery is nothing short of incredible. But I digress!

The challenge with cycling through a narrow, curving, dark, (should have been a) train tunnel is that there is very little space. Motor vehicles have to use a traffic signal warning system to let those coming the other way know that the tunnel is ‘occupied’. But this works on a timer and turns off after a ‘reasonable’ period of time.

"Beware of cyclists in the tunnel". The only tunnel that had cyclist warnings

“Beware of cyclists in the tunnel”. The only tunnel that had cyclist warnings

But what of a bicycle? Only one of the tunnels had a “Cylists in the tunnel” warning system. I guess you could set the traffic lights to red and then pedal madly (simulating a motor vehicle), hoping to get out the other side in time….. but that is no way to enjoy the thrill of riding in the dark!

The lights you see - were all that there were!

The lights you see – were all that there were!

The only way to enjoy the ride is to listen for vehicles as you pedal along, and then make yourself very visible (as you move to one side) if someone comes from behind or in front. Even stopping to take a photo seems like a risky thing to do…. unless, unlike me, your headlight and taillights are powered up, bright and very visible 🙂 (In my defence, we were riding in clear, sunny conditions – I did not think I would need a light for that stretch!!)

I want to return and re-ride through this valley because this time, I want to have good lights, and I want to ride s-l-o-w-l-y through each tunnel to savour the experience again. What fun!

Oooh good, another one..... :-)

Oooh good, another one….. 🙂

The tunnel behind is just very dark!

So much fun – I can’t wait to do it all again!

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21 responses to “Tunnels and bikes – awesome!

  1. Fun but I would think a bit scary also…

  2. Go have your fun. I’ll wait for posts from waayy over here. Too scary for me. 😮

  3. I haven’t cycled through a really long road based bike tunnel. Just paths that run through…

    My partner accidentally ended up cycling through a road tunnel in Germany that was near autobahn. Very scary for him.

  4. Any time that we have had to cycle in tunnels like this (Spain comes to mind) I have not liked it at all.

  5. This looks beautiful. I’d be afraid to ride through a narrow tunnel, but that wouldn’t stop me.

I would love to hear what you think....

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