Aankomst-in-Hondarribia-Spanje

They are perhaps the most sporty couple in all of Hombeek. Monique (72) and Will (69) bought a Santos e-bike in 2018. With that, they go into the mountains twice a year. One time things went wrong: Will’s battery suddenly faltered. ‘There we were on a remote campsite,’ says Monique. ‘With a technical problem, you don’t just get fixed. We thought. Cycling Jurgen solved it surprisingly quickly.’

That they are enthusiastic cyclists, you feel as soon as they start telling. Monique and Will have thousands of miles on the bike counter. He keeps a close track of Will. On a large road map of France, he has marked in marker all bicycle routes and pitches. And there are a lot of them.

Two years ago, the couple took the camper van from Charleville-Mézières in northern France to the Gorges du Tarn in the Cévennes from September to November. A wonderful cycling holiday through the Camargue and then west to the Atlantic Coast, across the Spanish border.

Looking for the hidden places

They made 30 stops in total, to cycle loops of about 70 to 80 kilometers on site. Will: ‘We stay there for a day or two-three, search the map for the most interesting places in the region and go there by bike. That’s how you really discover the beauty of every region.’

‘You’ll experience what a bike like this can handle. Roads are full of pebbles, forest paths, gravel. With our Santos, you can ride on all types of surfaces. We consciously choose the narrow adventurous thoroughfares. Always look for the most beautiful slopes, sometimes really spicy, and the winding wobbles.’

Even in the far south, there is a surprising amount of cycling. Monique explains: ‘We didn’t expect it at all, but the French and even the Spaniards make really nice cycling routes. On the coast, there are even separate paths for cyclists and for walkers.’

Meeting in the camper

Good preparation is half the work. So every night after dinner there is a meeting in the camper to plan the route for the next day. ‘This way we know exactly what is coming,’ says Monique. “In the morning, you climb hard, and then you come up and you’re a little tired. But in the afternoon you can go downhill again. At our age, we take that into account. That also gives confidence. Preparation is everything.”

‘It’s very different from organized cycling holidays where you cycle every day,’ adds Will. ‘Our camper gives us much more freedom, we choose everything ourselves. And day-to-day plans. Look at the environment, at the weather, at what we want.’

‘And it’s also budget-friendly. We prepare our budget in advance and determine how much we spend per day. We always go out of season, so that’s 13 to 15 euros, maximum of 19 euros, for a campsite. And then there are all those free places where you don’t have to pay for anything.’

‘We used to have to go everywhere by car anyway. There was no way we could take the kids. That’s completely different now. We really use our cargo bike as much as possible. To go to the store, to the pool with Zjef, but also every week to my fitness and Zumba evening. For shorter distances, such a bike is ideal.’

Cycling Jurgen to the rescue

Sometimes things go wrong. That’s part of the cycling adventure. In Bruniquel, in the Mid-Pyrenees, Will broke down with his bike. Something was faltering about the drive, the battery wasn’t giving enough voltage. Pretty annoying because in France you don’t have Santos stores of course.

Monique: ‘Will can also cycle without a battery, which he did for a while, but that’s not ideal. Especially since we’re looking up the slopes. And we had another month ahead of us. What were we supposed to do?”

Will decided to call Bike Jurgen. ‘Jurgen asked a few questions to find out exactly where the problem was. He quickly established that this was a very specific technical problem in the battery itself. So he put us in touch with the right technician at Santos, in Amsterdam. It was able to make a precise diagnosis: some faulty battery cells. The battery had to be replaced.”

And then it went amazingly fast. They first looked for a campsite so they could provide a fixed address for the shipment. That was on Tuesday. On Wednesday Santos sent the new battery, on Friday it arrived already.

Monique: ‘We didn’t expect this at all. We assumed that we would get it on Monday at the earliest and were already making plans to cover the weekend without a bike. But everything went super fast, even the mail cooperated so we could quickly continue our journey. Very pretty. Thanks, Cycling Jurgen and Santos!’

Unbranded ambassadors

Striking: Will and Monique are full of praise for their Santos, yet you won’t find the letters on the frame. Will: ‘we don’t like to walk around with big brands. Not on our clothes, not even on our bikes. But of course there is a license plate on the bike. Someone who recognizes that immediately sees: this is a Santos.”

Monique: ‘We are regularly stopped on a terrace and someone asks about our bikes. That’s how you get into a conversation. Actually funny: we don’t want to stand out but stand out more without a brand, because people ask about it so curiously.’

The best brakes also include the heaviest engine: the super-powerful Bosch Cargo line. ‘When there’s wind on the rains, you immediately feel a lot of resistance. That’s why it’s a handy luxury to have a powerful engine that lets you crash into the wind without any problem. Although we don’t use heavy positions in ordinary weather, they are more than welcome when there is a lot of wind.’

More conscious cycling with a Santos

Monique and Will have been making cycling trips since 2011, but with their electric Santos bikes, they are different. More aware, with more knowledge. Monique: ‘We used to go to Spain a lot. We hired e-bikes on-site to see how they react in the mountains. Because in Belgium everything might be pretty flat, but in the mountains, you need a completely different bike.’

‘The duration of the battery is especially important. With mine, I can ride 136 kilometers, flat. That’s pretty much it. In the mountains, of course, that’s different. That’s why we study our route in advance and calculate the slopes and descents. Downhill we can set to -1 and -2, then the battery recharges a bit. In the Pyrenees, you win about six to seven kilometers the Pyrenees. Interesting: it gives you the opportunity to expand your route.’

Twice a year, the couple plans such a big bike trip. At least, when there was no corona. We hope for Monique and Will that they are healthy and can forge plenty of new cycling plans at home, for when the weather is possible.

Personal composition of the bike

Monique and Will bought two Santos e-bikes in 2018. A present for her 70th birthday. They went for2 Travel Lite’s PLUS

Specifications bike Monique

  • Brand: Santos
  • Type: Travel Lite+
  • Color: Ruby (red)
  • Motor: Go Swiss
  • Drive: Carbon Gates CDX Belt
  • Acstation: Pinion 1.12
  • Remmen: Shimano XT with 180mm discs
  • Light: SON lighting black

Specifications bike Will

  • Brand: Santos
  • Type: Travel Lite+
  • Color: Ruby (red)
  • Motor: Go Swiss
  • Drive: Carbon Gates CDX Belt
  • Acstation: Pinion 1.12
  • Remmen: Shimano XT with 180mm discs
  • Light: SON lighting black
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