Climbing to La Barillette

The first time I climbed up to La Barillette on a bike it took me two and a half hours. This time it took one hour and sixteen minutes. I was going so slowly that I had to work to keep the bike upright. Since then I have gone from a mountain bike with tyres that weren’t pumped enough and soft suspension to the same bike with slick tires, hardened suspension and higher pressure in the tyres. I then swapped that bike two or three years later and tried the same climb. I struggled with the road bike as well. I had to stop at least two or three times. I also found that clipped in pedals on such steep gradients are a hindrance because you can’t stop until the flatter bits.

This time I wore normal shoes and I set off from around Nyon. I cycled up to the start of the climb and i just started climbing. Above Cheserex I already had to stand on the bike to get enough thrust, then sit down, and then repeat. As I went up I saw two or three groups. One group set off just as I was getting to them and the second stopped where the first had been.

I like having a group in front of me. The group in front gives me a goal. It gives me a pace. I want at the minimum to keep up with them and ideally to overtake them. The person I used for pacing gave up within the first four to six kilometres. I then continued at my own pace as the other people were now a long distance away.

As I go up this hill I often daydream and my mind wanders to something completely different. It’s the closest I’d get to meditation. You’re making a physical effort but the body is so used to it that the mind has time to think of other things. I don’t remember what I was daydreaming about.

I’m used to doing this climb in the heat of summer when it’s 37°c or more. This time it was no more than 20 or so. I didn’t need to take two litres of water with me but I would have been happy with a rain coat and a third layer. The reason for this is that the beautiful weather I set off in turned overcast and cold.

As I got closer to the top I could feel the temperature begin to drop, and i felt the need to close the zips, to preserve heat. I even thought of putting my spare layer on. I continued.

When I set off you could see the top. By the time I got back down this is what it looked like.

When you’re climbing you know what your previous times were and during this time I got to a certain point where i saw that I was going to beat my previous best times by a nice margin so it encouraged me to keep going, but also not to stop and rest, and not to wait for two cars to figure out how to pass each other. I cycled through the grass to overtake them.

When I finally got to the top I saw people get out of their cars, smoke cigarettes and talk loudly. I had two Balistos and then headed back down. The view was so bad that I didn’t take any pictures.

As much as you think you suffer during the way up, which I didn’t this time, going down is the difficult bit. When you’re going back down you’re cold and you’re not doing much. You’re letting gravity undo the work that you just spent an hour doing.

My tyres have over 4000km in them so as i went down the hill I was slower than I needed to be. The surface was also wet and therefore could be slippy. I was holding the brakes for a good portion of the descent, to such an extent that I thought this was a good finger strengthening exercise.

Just before I got to the pond my rear tyre suffered a puncture. I can see two marks where I think a thorn or some other object punctured the tyre and deflated it within seconds. It didn’t matter as I had a spare tyre with me.

This winter I changed tyres frequently for the indoor trainer so the process has become automatic. What I especially enjoyed about changing a tyre on the side of a mountain slope is that you don’t have to worry about getting the floor dirty. Within minutes the tyre was changed and I could continue the descent.

This ride is unique because the night before I decided to do this climb we were discussing a via ferrata with two friends but they don’t have the equipment. The compromise was going to climb indoors but I didn’t feel like doing that because 1. the weather was nice and because 2. there are free sports to be enjoyed. I woke up that morning, opened the blinds and because of what a beautiful and warm day I saw it would be I decided to go for a bike ride and enjoy it. It felt so good to get on the bike after several days, or even weeks of not riding.

I was fully within the moment yesterday. I profited from the good weather, I set a goal and I achieved it, and I lived in the now, rather than later. This is rare for me. This ride, despite it’s physical nature, was relaxing.

Comments

  1. Rich Kleinbauer

    Hi Richard,
    I fell upon your blog and I don’t know how that happened. I live in Nyon, I’m a musician, I do vtt and recently rode up the Barillette, gets harder every year. I did 50km and 1400m vertical on Thursday (to Crêt de la Neuve) to prepare for a race next weekend. I’d be interested to meet you to discuss a possible video project for some new music I’m making. Best wishes, Rich Kleinbauer

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