The London Baroudeurs are passionate about helping people ride, learn and grow.
We believe this is especially important in a transient city like London. Empowering members to grow even when they move onto new beginnings.
This is a conversation with one of our very own Baroudeurs, Steve Evans aka, ‘Buffalo’. He has since moved from London to Paris, France. Here, we take a moment to catch up and discuss how Steve has made Paris his home and how it has changed his life. If you’re looking to do the same, we hope this conversation inspires you to take the plunge.
Hey Steve, how’s your morning?
Good thanks. I just got back 10mins ago from a ride.
I’m working on a plan for real estate to become more resilient to climate change. I care about it. I’m always asking: how can we add value to the planet from a fiduciary perspective? And I enjoy challenge.
What’s in your drink? It looks good.
Hemp protein, water, honey, blueberries and raspberries. I found an online shop called “Nuts in Bulk”. You can buy bio products here at reasonable prices. I love sugar, but if I can reduce, all the better. ‘Galette de Roi”. It’s Epiphany.
“Brexit doesn’t help and the Covid pandemic encouraged us to be closer to one of our families.”
Tell us about the cycling culture in France:
It’s different from the UK. Surprisingly there’s a bit less structure – but it feels more inclusive. At Longchamp, which is a circuit west of Paris in Bois de Boulogne, anyone can join in the fast pack, so long as you can hang on. One of the areas I’ve been trying to discover is at the velodrome, which you need to call “la piste” otherwise you won’t be understood. Nothing compares to London’s HHV track league, it really set the bar high.
However, I found a very welcoming club which has its own masters track league on Saturdays in the summer. They race at Jacques Anquetil velodrome, or, La Cipale, which is East of Paris. Eddy Merckx won the TDF here back in the 60’s. Lots of history. Anyways, in my second week racing I was moved from cat 4 to cat 2 and quickly onto cat 1. You are awarded a bouquet after each race if you make the podium. That’s good, and Charlotte really enjoyed that. Over here, the structure depends a lot on timing. There’s a very sociable and relaxed attitude which is awesome. However for me, sometimes I just want to race and get home before noon so I can enjoy the rest of the day.
“It’s different from the UK. Surprisingly there’s a bit less structure – but it feels more inclusive. “
What have you done so you can get more out of your cycling?
As mentioned above, I met a group in Longchamp, Paris. It’s like London’s RePa, or pretty close to it. I found them on Strava. They’re known as the ‘suicidal urban riders’. My office is not far, so it only really works in the spring and summer evenings, though is not feasible in autumn or winter dur to the dark.
In terms of a club, I’m out with a new club called, ‘Le Paris Cycliste Olympique’ (PCO). They’re a big club compared to the Baroudeurs. The B’s are more of a social club, some serious, some less so, but all are passionate. It’s not a race club. You ride hard and go for coffee and cake after.
Also, PCO are focused on racing. Some don’t, but they provide a training structure and coaches. They are looking to develop a pro continental team, which will be good for the club and good for the city of Paris.
Okay, tell us what variety of cycling exists:
The French mostly ride on the road and a bit of VTT, but gravel is growing. By the way, I got a new bike! Do you want to see it? It’s 3T Exploro. I plan to race the Gravel Fondo Lumburg in April, and the gravel race in Houffalize was a rude awakening for me last year. I want to do it again and qualify for the Worlds.
I recently rode in Germany. The Black Forest is a place you can go so far through. You can even sustain a long bike ride because you can buy sausages in the vending machines. I mean where else can you do that?! I rode from Houffalize, Belgium to Cologne, Germany to see friends. After a race I rode 60km to a camp, then rode to Cologne. Then took a train to the Black Forest, and spent a week cycling through Baden-Württemberg and into Alsace. The gravel paths, castles, vineyards and views were all worth it. I made a short video which is available on my YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmmA8xr6Yr8
That’s some ride. How do you navigate such a long day out?
I used Komoot, but got pissed as it sent me somewhere truly off-grid. I had no commitment so I trusted Komoot and followed the route suggested. For example, I needed to end in Strasbourg, but wanted to climb la Planche des belles Filles. I found a campsite nearby and amended my itinerary. It was 150km to get there and after a long day, Komoot took me on a hiking trail up the opposite side of the mountain! It was late in the day so I found another climb, Ballon d’Alsace which was also featured in the Tour de France so left happy, but not satisfied. I need to go back into les Vosges and conquer la Planche des belles Filles!
So, how long have you been in France?
Over a year.
Remind us, why did you move?
It’s easier for Charlotte and me. Brexit doesn’t help and the Covid pandemic encouraged us to be closer to one of our families. When the UK government set up all the chaotic barriers to entry, we had to make a decision. France is the easiest way to do it. We always planned to, but these reasons made the decision all the more easier. We looked at what we can do: Charlotte is a consultant, with French clients, which is an advantage. As for me, I can work remotely – both with UK and international responsibilities.
How’s the move been?
Good. I took off Jan and Feb to run a half marathon and still clocked 13,000km on the bike for the year. I try to be consistent. There are some very strong guys here. If you can hang on you are welcome to a wheel. I’ve been more competitive – just starting fresh. You come into this with nothing, so you have to think about what you want to do. I asked myself, “how can I get involved with guys stronger than me?” You can do that here, and you will get dropped, and no one is going wait for you. It’s humbling and pushes you to improve.
You do a lot of cycling and cover most if not all the disciplines. What have you got your sights on this year?
I want to focus on gravel and although it’s not popular, it is growing. The cool thing about gravel is that I love nature. Road means you’re likely to be amongst cars. The good thing is that it’s (gravel) versatile. It’s there and you have the option. I love the adventure and getting dirty on the bike in the outdoors.
The other day, we were going through farmlands in the fog. I said to myself, “I’m just going to follow this line in front of me.” It felt so surreal and it was awesome. You can occasionally feel that on a road bike. But there’s nothing like gravel; it brings you closer to nature and its challenging, what more could you ask for?
“how can I get involved with guys stronger than me?” You can do that here…”
Tell us more about making the move to France.
People are very friendly and funny. They’re very interested. It’s a very communicative/social culture. Which makes it good, but it’s hard if you’re not fluent. I can speak and understand a lot more than before. And people will help you.
If you just learn a little and try, it will take you further. If you work on this the best way you can, I’ve found that eventually you will be included.
It’s also very diverse in terms of typography – you’ve got the north, east and the Vosges in Alsace, close to the border with Germany. You go south, you’ve got Provence, Mount Ventoux, it’s desert like. You ride through fields and all you smell is lavender. Go all the way south, you’ve got the Mediterranean and there’s the Mistral.
What’s cool is that people here are generally interested in cycling. When you make a stop there will always be a passer-by who’ll engage with you and comment; asking how you are and where you’re going.
A perfect example is during the l’e tape d’tour. On the climb to Galibier, I was mentally equipped for the challenge. But this was followed by The Croix de Froix, that went on for another 27km. It was so hot. Everybody romanticises about A’lpe de Huez, and rightly so, but that thing it is also very hard. What helped was all the spectators along the route who were cheering us on. They were helping riders cool down by dowsing them with water. My feet were actually overheating at the time, and one guy was going to dump water on my head but I told him “non, sur mes pieds!” That really helped cool me down. That’s cycling fans for you.
Tell us a little about what’s not so good:
Making close friends has been a bit more challenging. I engage and speak with my colleagues and try to connect with people outside of work, but there isn’t that after-work community just yet. It would be nice to meet people and just grab a beer after a long week.
In London I’m not sure it was the same. Perhaps it’s because we speak the same language. I think the key is to just be you and know that you are making advances, albeit little by little. There’s a lot of support from my wife, Charlotte – you really need someone to support you in these situations. All the legal documents for the house are all in French, and she has really navigated us through that process. In addition to other things like getting healthcare, filing taxes, all the day-to-day things people who grow up somewhere don’t think much about because they are standard. When you move country, it’s a lot of work trying to get to grips with it all, especially given that information is not always available in your native language.
How do you motivate yourself in the trying times?
Remind myself that I’ve got it good. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to travel and live in a different country, and I try not to lose sight of that.
“It would be nice to meet people and just grab a beer after a long week.”
What’s your advice to a cyclist new to Paris?
There are several areas to ride within the city if you are strapped for time:
Longchamp – west of Paris: https://www.strava.com/segments/17109958?oq=longchamp
The Polygone – east of Paris
Most of the cycling community is organised through clubs on Strava, here are a few:
Suicidal Urban Riders (“SUR”): https://www.strava.com/clubs/SuicidalUrbanRiders
Paris Cycliste Olymppique (PCO): https://www.strava.com/clubs/pco75
Miracle Morning: https://www.strava.com/clubs/MiracleMorningLongchamp
Fanure Cycling Klub (FCK): https://www.strava.com/clubs/f-ck
At Longchamp, through spring and summer there are Blakk Fast Packs which are organised via SUR. They are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8pm, and its full gas. The organised paceline is only towards the front and everyone else latches on for the ride. However, if you get to the front and you can’t keep the pace, you’ll get swallowed into a hole so best would be to pedal as hard as you can and get off. Otherwise stick further back in the pack.
There is one sketchy bit near the entrance of the racecourse where the road gets narrow and cars turn in to enter the facility, but there is typically security directing traffic. However, it’s important to stay alert and aware of surroundings.
Both the Polygone and Longchamp circuits are closed to traffic and there are no stoplights, so if you join a fast group there is no excuse to not leave with an average pace exceeding 35kph, and that’s being conservative.
:: The London Baroudeurs believe in empowering people who seek to join a team of cyclists and together will ‘ride, learn and grow’. Get in touch if you’d like to know more mailto:[email protected] ::