Lionel Brans , tourist-cycling craftsman-manufacturer of cycles and - hiker, pilot in some technical contests before 1940, is 36 years old when he undertakes in 1948 a raid with bicycle between Paris and Saigon.
Animated of a scout spirit, former prisoner of war escaped, it wants to ensure the promotion of the bicycle touring and to make known with the whole world the excellence of the French production of two wheels by preparing a raid on a length-course. The idea of a voyage between Paris and Saigon came to him in 1938. it takes part in the Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur 1948 then gives up during nearly one year his wife and her four children to launch out in this adventure full with surprised and dangers.
“I seek the difficulty while leaving the winter to cross Balkans. If I succeeded, that will prove that one can pass everywhere in any season in the bicycle”.
An adventure of 12.710 kilometers
The November 14th 1948, around 5 p.m., surrounded by many cyclists of the clubs of the Paris region, it takes the departure since the kilometric item zero located in front of Notre-Dame de Paris. Eight month later, after about fifty punctures, it will put foot at ground with Calcutta (India), having traversed 12.710 kilometers in 98 stages, that is to say an average of 130 kilometers per surface of “rolling”. The war in Burma will prevent it from joining Saigon with bicycle and it is on board a plane that it will carry out the last part of its voyage, which does not remove anything with the value of its exploit.
He told his voyage in his book Seul with bicycle from Paris to Saigon published with the Amiot-Dumont editions in 1950 (one rather easily finds this work in the secondhand booksellers or on specialized Internet sites). It is a log book without literary claim, written rather well, whose interest is in the account of voyage and descriptions of the world the shortly after the war.
The sporting exploit
Lionel Brans leaves with a bicycle weighing 19 kg on which it will install 41 kg of luggage (of which a tent with central mast, a sleeping bag, two tires of help, all necessary tools with repairs and even of preserve food if…) The cyclists will appreciate the efforts to be deployed to hoist such a machine (60 kg!) in top of collars covered with snow with percentages “dantesques”. It will survive crossing winter of Balkans (until - 30 degrees c) which will be marked by an attack of wolves, but also with the heat of the desert (he cannot pose its naked hands on the handlebar become extreme under the effect of the sun). It will be attacked by brigands, will essuiera shots, “will fall” nose to nose (or muzzle) with a tiger in India, will escape the disease… but will arrive “at good port”. In the course of road, it will have lost many hair, a phenomenon which it allots to a decalcification of food origin.
The contemporary touring cyclist will be surprised to note how Brans manages its effort: he often rolls night (by taste, sometimes to avoid heat); he neglects the elementary biorythmes “effort-rest” (a concept which it effleure hardly); he embarks for long crossings under the sun with insufficient water provisions; its food is chaotic since having very little money it generally nourishes the EC what people met offer to him: it is not often balanced, hygiene is relative. In short, it had almost met all the conditions to fail in this attempt. If it finally overcame, it is thanks to an iron will, animated by a patriotic spirit which will force it to pedal, whereas an ordinary being would certainly have given up.
Lionel Brans will be pressed on the French diplomatic network which will generally facilitate the task to him, but especially on the clubs of touring cyclists of the crossed countries. It will be thus celebrated as large high-speed motorboat with Ankara (Turkey) where banquets will be given in its honor (at its entry in the restaurant of a de luxe hotel, the orchestra will play a French music while the room will applaud it), he will be received sumptuously in Iran, in India, will meet the king of the Kampuchea. He will speak with Edith Piaf about passage to Beirut for his round. More modestly, because if the inhabitants of the capitals and the big cities knew its existence by the press, in the moved back campaigns it must sometimes take precautions to avoid the attacks (in Afghanistan for example). Espérantiste, it will also use this network to be received at the inhabitant and to be made open doors. 1948, like had made earlier Lucien Péraire. It is not yet the Cold war, but the borders are not crossed as easily as at this beginning of XXIè century. In addition to letters of introductions, which will contribute it in its administrative approaches and to the crossing of frontiers, they will be the cuts of the local newspapers which it will exhibera in front of the police officers or the Douanier S suspicious. It was enough to think of it: these articles were for him excellent paper interpreters and effective sesames.
The calendar of the raid
- Entered in Italy the November 27th,
- Entered in Yugoslavia the December 13rd,
- Entered in Bulgaria the December 29th,
- Entered in Turkey the January 7th 1949,
- Entered in Syria the February 3rd,
- Entered with the Lebanon the February 22nd,
- Entered in Syria the March 3rd,
- Entered in Transjordanie the March 8th,
- Entered in Palestine the March 10th,
- Entered in Iraq the March 13rd,
- Entered in Iran the April 3rd,
- Entered in Afghanistan on June 1st,
- Entered with the Pakistan the June 28th,
- Entered in India the July 5th,
- Arrived at Calcutta the July 25th,
- Arrived at Saigon (by plane) the August 6th 1949.
The bicycle of Lionel BransIts weight was approximately 19 kg.
Framework: Vitus series out of tubes of 28 6/10e, except diagonal tube of 30 8/10e.
- Luggage stand: reinforced out of tubes of 8 m/m.
- Brakes: Cantilever with shoes. Handles Frexel twinned with the guidonnets.
- Bearings: annular for pedals, hubs and pedals Sansax .
- Rims: Fox for tandem with locked hollow base.
- Cranks: steel with square hafting.
- Developments: 47/32, with wheel-free 14/16/18/24.
source: review the cyclist, January 1949.
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