North Van couple commences epic bike trip using solar power

A North Vancouver couple is prepping for an epic cycling expedition that will see them pedalling forward – while often looking backwards – through Europe and beyond.

Anne-Sophie Rodet and Justin Lemire-Elmore are two of approximately 40 participants in this year’s Sun Trip, an exceptional event that challenges participants to ride from Lyon, France to the Guangzhou region of China using only a solar electric bicycle. 

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Rodet and Lemire-Elmore are using a custom built solar powered tandem trike as their mode of transportation as they prepare to journey thousands of kilometres across Europe later this week.

“I’m super looking forward to facing backwards on a rowing machine and looking at all the reactions,” Lemire-Elmore tells the North Shore News about the couple’s bike, which he describes as: “a back-to-back tandem recumbent electric solar (bicycle)” wherein the forward facing person peddles and the backwards facing rider uses a built in “rowing station” to propel the contraption forward while energy from the sun recharges the bike’s electric components.

“This is our first foray doing anything directly with solar,” Lemire-Elmore explains. “Now that I’ve actually experienced what it’s like to have the battery pack just charge itself throughout the day with no hunting around to find a spare outlet – it’s such a liberating sensation.”

It’s an ordeal that Lemire-Elmore knows all too well. Ten years ago he rode across Canada in a bid to show how long distance touring could by accomplished using an electric bike. Although he says back then e-bikes were prone to needing extensive repairs and troubleshooting, the technology has improved tremendously 10 years on.

The Sun Trip has also piqued Lemire-Elmore’s professional interest as his company, a small engineering firm called Grin Technologies based in Vancouver, is dedicated to advancing the state of after-market electric bicycle conversion kits.

“When I found out that this trip for 2018 was going from Lyon – which is the hometown of Anne-Sophie – to the Guangzhou region of china, which is where we get a ton of components and parts supplies … it seemed pretty special to be linking those two parts of the world by solar powered e-bikes, which is the entire domain of light low-powered electric assist that intrigues and interests us,” he says.

As participants ride from Lyon to Guangzhou they are free to take essentially any route they want along the way.

“I’m really interested in the beginning, so the first five days we ride all together and we get to know the other teams. I think it’s going to be interesting because after that we’ll be really interested in following and knowing where the other riders will be,” Rodet says.

While the total journey from France to China is estimated at 12,000 kilometres when it kicks off this week, with most participants travelling a northern route through Ukraine or Russia to get there, Rodet says her and Lemire-Elmore are interested in travelling south through Iran. They might be returning from this year’s Sun Trip a little early as well, she notes.

“Everybody is going all the way to Guangzhou except us, the reason is we’re actually coming back because we had already planned to get married in August. You can’t do it all, so we decided to not go all the way,” she says.

And Lemire-Elmore adds that the portion of the trip the couple is undertaking also serves to highlight something they’re both passionate about.

“The fact that you can do these kinds of distances with this small amount of energy coming from solar really just helps highlight how little energy you really do need for moving people in a fun and pleasant way,” he says. “We hope to bring attention to that.”

The Sun Trip officially kicks off on Friday at the Place des Terreaux in Lyon at 1 p.m., rain or shine. Hopefully shine.

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