Love of books inspires student’s bike tours

Lyon literature lover hits the road for bikepacking adventures

A 19-year-old literature student from Lyon is combining his love of books and biking – by cycling around France following his favourite authors’ paths.

Jean-Acier Danès’s bicycle takes him to places where the writers once wrote or lived and he has already pedalled to Annecy to visit the landscape that moved Jean-Jacques Rousseau; to the homes of Victor Hugo and Honoré de Balzac in Paris; to Sète, where Paul Valéry is buried, and many more.

He has been cycling since high school where, influenced by a friend’s love for ‘fixed gear’ bikes (without the usual multi-gear options), his passion grew and he gathered different parts to build his own bike in a workshop.                                                                                                                       

Inspired by ‘The Transcontinental Race’ - an annual long distance race across Europe - and in love with reading and writing, he decided to combine the two passions. He became a biker “in his own way”, as he called it, during his first year of preparatory studies. He gradually discovered about more bikepacking (backpacking with a bike) and started riding his bike further and further.

Throughout his travels, he allows himself to make a couple of detours, and he does not like to plan where he will sleep or eat. This year, his plans are to follow the path through southern France that R.L. Stevenson took in ‘Voyages avec un âne dans les Cévennes’ (Travels with a donkey in the Cévennes), and to follow the steps of Jean Giono in Italy.

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Jean-Acier is not only passionate about French literature and authors like Hugo and Balzac, but he also loves classics by Jack Kerouac, Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He told The Connexion that he would read anything, and that he can easily have a Lafontaine book and a George Orwell book on the go at the same time.                            

During school time, he trains twice a week, either during the early morning or late at night. “Studies come first,” he said, “this year I managed to work hard in both cycling and in school, and I tried to be as focused and as involved as I could”.

Most of his weekends are dedicated to exploring the countryside, and his holidays are dedicated to long journeys. “Hemingway was right, ‘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’,” he said.

The young man also developed his travel writing by creating his own blog, ‘Un vélo pour des mots - Bicyclettres’. When he is done travelling across France and Europe, he would like to travel across America and Russia, which will be “a lot harder than France!”

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