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Broadcast Journalist and Multimedia Producer based in Paris, France

French solar cyclist finishes epic journey to Tokyo

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Florian Bailly on his solar bike, Japan, October 2010, Photo: Sur la Route du Soleil Levant

Frenchman Florian Bailly arrived in Tokyo at the beginning of the week after a gruelling bicycle ride from France through 12 countries and across two continents. Travelling on a specially adapted solar bicycle, Bailly harnessed the sun’s rays as he completed the 10,000 kilometre journey in less than two-thirds of the time it would have taken on a conventional bike.

“I crossed desert, mountains and countryside, where there is nothing, nobody. Then in this big city with millions of people, it was crazy,” said Bailly on his arrival in Tokyo.

The idea behind Bailly’s bike is simple.  The combination of human, electric and solar power, his custom-made trailer attached to the rear of his bike carries two solar panels which charge two lithium batteries. These provide power for an electric motor which helps the rider travel more quickly with the same amount of pedalling.

“This is the first bike like this for a trip of 10,000 kilometres,” the Albertville-born Frenchman told RFI. “With a classic bike, you can do maybe 80 or 90 kilometres a day. But with my bike I can go faster and longer, using electric and solar power.”

He estimates that the solar bicycle enabled him to travel around 120 kilometres a day, covering the terrain from France to Japan in four months, when a normal push bicycle would take six months for the same journey.

After leaving France, the solar cyclist travelled through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and China, before finally reaching his destination.

Despite linguistic challenges the eco-bike crossed cultural barriers.

“I met a lot of people across the world. I was surprised– everyone, young, old people, rich or poor people, were interested in my bike. I don’t speak Chinese or Russian very well. So we had to talk with a few words or gestures. But everyone understands how this bike works.”

After successfully proving that the 8,000-euro prototype works, Bailly says he can see this type of transport developed for the general public, especially in places like China where electric bikes or scooters are already quite popular.

In the future he says it’s his dream to create a new solar electric bike race from France to other places in the world. For now, he is happy to be at home in France, nursing his saddle sores, and working on a one-hour short film about his expedition.

Radio France Internationale

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