It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.  Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

-Ernest Hemingway

It’s almost July, and you know what that means! Lots of blog posts about a sport that you probably don’t care about! In an effort to turn that around, I thought I’d help you get to know a few of the contours I’ve been learning outside the Peripherique of Paris.

The weather here has finally taken a turn for the better, and it’s certainly nice to get out for a bit during the day.  The lunch time group ride (which currently consists of Thierry and me until Daniel gets off the IR list) has a 40km loop to the southwest of the lab.  My camera is a little big to take with, so I asked my friend Google for help in taking some pictures of the ride, which I’ve assembled into a movie.  Since you probably don’t want to sit through the entire 1.5 hour ride,  I’ve compressed it down to three minutes, with an average speed of 480 mph. I recommend HD if your computer is up to the task.

This past Thursday we had a big Social Movement, which is a fancy name for a transit strike.  Only one train in every five was running, and only during rush-hour.  Rather than spend half my day commuting on a packed train, I biked to work and back.  Along the way I met up with my boss, Daniel, who had decided his first trip back on a bike should be the 30 km journey to the lab.  Ambitious, but I think it worked out ok for him.

The fascinating part of the trip is that you get to see how quickly the population density drops off as you leave Paris.    The 26 km commute for me roughly equivalent to my father’s daily commute in terms of distance, but the change in landscape is much more drastic.  The first half of the ride is all urban and quasi-suburban, the second half is mostly farm land and fields, all in little more than the length of Manhattan.  Thierry and I certainly go past a surprising number of horses and cows on our loop through Essonne.

Technical Information:

Position data recorded using My Tracks, video stills composed using Google Maps API and Imagemagick, with bc to compute heading information.  Bash, wmctrl and Chrome pull it all together.  The videos were created using mencoder, with soundtracks by Le Tigre and Grand Buffet, respectively.