French roads

From previous cycling tours of 1906 and 1907, Lawrence was well aware of the
challenging nature of French roads. In letters home he would describe them as ‘uniformly
‘ and ‘execrable‘. Early newsreels of Grand Prix automobile races at the turn of the
century show that they were uneven, very dusty and usually carried a scattering of fine stones
and flints. Tyres were still very vulnerable to wear and punctures and it was normal practice
for cyclists and motorists to carry tyre repair kits and make their own roadside repairs.
Gradients could be steep and cobbled surfaces of jolting pavé were common in built-up areas.
Like any cyclist Lawrence preferred level roads that followed the course of rivers. Attacks by
local dogs could doubtless be expected from time to time. In addition to these hazards, he
would have to contend with the energy-sapping temperatures of high summer, particularly in
Provence. Even today, travelling south by car along the long straight roads of France into a
fierce sun can be taxing. Overall, he probably reckoned that average speeds of 10-15 miles/
hour (16-24 km/hour) would be possible. At the planning stage he appreciated that his
itinerary between Brittany on the Channel coast and the Mediterranean exceeded 3,000 km
and, barring mishaps, would take roughly two months. Having lived with his family in Brittany from time to time since childhood he was well able to converse in French. Lengthy cycling tours of Britain and the Continent had become fairly common by this time but a solo tour on this scale was decidedly adventurous.