They pedal almost as much as the Tour de France riders. Half way through their two-month journey, the French team-mates of the Fab Bike Tour, a European tour of labs initiated by three students from Centrale (Paris Engineering school), already have more than 2,300km in their calves and 30 lab visits under their belts. “We increased the pace a week ago. More than 120km, sometimes 130km per day is hard, but we are holding on”, confides Eymard Houdeville, during a break somewhere on the riverbank of the Danube.
With a 4,000km itinerary and 11 countries to cycle through before mid-august, the small team doesn’t really have time to take it easy. Having left Paris on June 13, they visit one lab after the other. After Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna or more recently Bratislava or Budapest that they reached early afternoon on July 19.
4,000 kilometers, €15,000 and 4 punctures
For these engineering students aged 21 to 22, it’s about understanding how European makers go about making the industrialization phase of their projects a reality, by going to see them directly in the field. Beyond the charm of DIY and the sporting challenge, their observations will also serve to fuel their end-of-course thesis and introduce a little maker culture into the prestigious school.
“As far as I’m concerned, the highlight was the visit of C-base, the oldest hackerspace in Berlin, the official presentation of which is a space ship crashed on earth, says Eymard. But I mostly retain its militant and political dimension. More than 500 hackers work there, it’s something very powerful.”
In practice, they produce the portrait of the makers they meet, sometimes even take the time to tinker with them some accessories for their bikes, like stickers made with a vinyl cutter with Bart Bakker, founder of the Utrecht Minifablab .
Touring the Netherlands, with a two-day break at the Utrecht Minifablab:
To carry out their European tour, the Fab Bikers collected around €15,000 “financed at 100% by sponsors”. Among them, two official sponsors of the Tour de France teams “who paid for the bikes and the jerseys”. Professional equipment that the young students from Centrale appreciate. “Finally, we had very few breakages apart from 4 punctures at the start.”
After Zagreb and Ljubljana, the Fab Bikers will cycle through the north of Italy and part of the Alps to rejoin their last leg on August 12 in Bourg-Saint-Maurice in the Savoie region. Like the big guys, we told you.
Fab Bike Tour website