Sun Trip , Sun Trip: the world on solar bikes!
The Sun Trip The Solar Bike Adventure
Adventurers on solar bikes choosing their course through Eurasia. Inspired by unassisted yacht races around the world, the Sun Trip is writing a new page in the world of overland adventures.

The Sun Trip is a showcase for new forms of mobility. Each adventurer is an ambassador of solar energy and eco-mobility, proving their efficiency and their humanist dimension.
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At the Beginning: A Solar Epic From France to Japan [2010]

The genesis of the Sun Trip adventure took place when its founder Florian Bailly had the idea to become the first person to cross Europe and Asia on an e-bike powered by a solar trailer.

“Sur la route du soleil levant” (On the Road to the Rising Sun) took off from the National Institute of Solar Energy (INES), Bourget-du-Lac, France in June 2010. Traveling more than 10,000 km, Bailly crossed a dozen countries and made a stop at the Shanghai Expo before arriving in Tokyo, Japan in October 2010.

This solo challenge allowed him to foment an even more daring idea. Taking inspiration from the great sailing races crisscrossing the oceans, he imagined an equally great adventure on solar bikes gathering a group of pioneers on a variety of innovative machines.

“I was alone in the deserts of Central Asia when I had the idea for a collective adventure.”

– Florian Bailly

Coming back to France, he put together a movie to better tell the stories from the road and entered the French travel festival circuit. This allowed him to gather a group of electric bikes and solar technology enthusiasts. This group was where he recruited the Sun Trip pioneers, less than two years after coming back from Japan.


La Route des Steppes – From a Dream to Reality [2013]


He made a successful bet: in June 2013, twenty-eight solar bikes set off between France and Kazakhstan, riding over 8,000 km. Participants were from a wide range of ages and abilities. Three main profiles emerge from this cycling rally:

– the endurance athletes, quickly rising to the head of the pack;

– the hackers, inventors and techies, with their creative and daring machines;

– the backpackers, strong storytellers who communication with emotion the human connections on the road.

The team’s paths sometimes intersect. However, they each ride their own way, unassisted and with total freedom for their itinerary. They were only required to go through Sochi in Russia, the then future Olympic city.

Thirty-one adventurers depart from the French Alps at the beginning of the summer, but only twenty make it to Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital city. From them, only eleven managed to charge their batteries using only solar energy, thus getting on the “Solar Challenge” racing roster of the adventure.*** Belgian Raf Van Hulle arrives first, covering the distance in only 38 days by riding every day from sunrise to sunset with a daily average of nearly 200 km. The Sun Trip also rewarded good communication by participants during the rally. Stéphane Scotto di Cesare and Stéphane Briel won the People’s Award while the Quebecoise Anick-Marie Bouchard won the Jury’s Prize.

In joy and suffering, going from laughter to tears, the Sun Trip pioneers made a human face to solar mobility from the first year on, building the myth surrounding an event that only hopes to become bigger…

A Loop Between Italy and Turkey – From a World Expo to Another [2015]

At first, 2015’s Sun Trip was modelled after the first event, heading towards Kazakhstan. The organization of the second large-scale Sun Trip was, however, disrupted by the Donbass war. Geopolitical restrictions in Ukraine and Russia forced the organizing team to design a new route connecting the World Expo in Milan, Italy, to the Antalya Horticultural Expo 2016 site.

An official prologue brought together a dozen participants and connected Chambéry to Milan. Then participants were invited to perform a 7,500 km loop starting in Italy where they would take a ferry to Greece or Albania. The latter was certainly one of the pleasant surprises of the course. Then, participants had to head to Antalya and stop for 24 hours break with our partner organization. Last mandatory waypoint: spectacular Cappadocia, going around Mount Erciyes, a dormant volcano near Kayseri. Keeping with the same principles of non-assistance and freedom of itinerary which made its success, the trip could be taken clockwise or counterclockwise, but only a team chose to go for the northern route: the Deli Dolu Team.

In only two years, the technical progress is incredible. Bernard Cauquil is the fastest rider this time, reaching Milan in just 25 days, two days ahead of Raf Van Hulle, the former champion who came to defend his title. Bernard’s machine is original: it is a two-wheel recumbent bike under a long solar roof with a mid-drive… hub motor! It is a spectacular performance.

On the human side, the Cazaspe Team won the Jury’s Prize, bearing the colours of the Institut Curie. Living with a metastasized breast cancer, Béatrice accomplished this journey while complying with the requirements of her treatment. Her companion Yannick mostly designed their solar bikes. As for the People’s Choice, let’s say that the byways taken by the GO4Ecomoblity multi-generational team – Henri Jonckheere, his son Antoine and their friend Laurent Dalou – allowed them to snap many HDR photos that were very popular with their fans.

Daily averages approached 300 km for the fastest, and sixteen participants finished using only solar energy. The bar had been raised for a larger adventure.

Sun Trip Tour: An Implementation at the Regional Level [2017/2019]

Following the second Sun Trip event, it became clear that shorter and more accessible adventures like the 2015 prologue between Chambéry and Milan would be filling a need within the Sun Trip community. Suntrippers and their fans are looking for ways to connect and get together on the road, sharing their technical innovations and making it a learning experience.

The Sun Trip Tour reaches a wider audience: Suntrippers or their relatives that might already be equipped for such a trip, but also aspiring participants coming to test their prototypes or other solar bike enthusiasts. There is no selection process, technical regulations are curtailed, and there is no notion of speed or race. Bold journeys and picturesque detours are encouraged for those whose machines allow it.

This new collective event is not, however, a 100% organized trip. The teams on the “solar caravan” do have some freedom between a succession of waypoints separated by 100-250 km. At the stopovers, participants gather around a meal, share some activities or meet with the local populations. Minimal daily averages are around 110 km in order to keep up with the pace on an optimal route, not accounting for elevation. Finally, a service provider offers a turnkey solar trailer rental, La Sun Travel, that allows to test the added value of solar energy without blindly investing in equipment.

The Sun Trip Tour 2017 Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes started in the Massif Central mountains. Regional in scope, its route is no less daring, bringing together 45 participants on a 1000 km journey from Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon, crossing a dozen alpine passes and making an incursion in Switzerland and Italy.

After an ascent on the Gergovie plateau, the participants had the choice between an easy way in the Issoire-Brioude plain or a harsher route near the Auvergne volcanoes or the Forez mountains. After a stopover in Puy en Velay, they rode down to the Rhône Valley only to climb back up on the Vercors plateaus, notably through the Rousset Pass or the spectacular Bourne river gorges. A three-day leg then covered some mythical mountain pass ascents: the Croix de Fer, the Galibier, the Mont Cenis and, above all, the Iseran Pass at an altitude of 2,770 m! In Val d’Isère, the group rested for a day, enjoying the Val d’Isère Electric and Hybrid Vehicle Show before the successive crossings of the Little and the Great Saint Bernhard passes, the latter in which they stayed overnight in a mountain refuge.

< Galerie Photo STT2017 >

The passage through Italy was short, but allowed a grand entry into Switzerland with a stopover on the shores of Lake Geneva. There was then one last longer leg with a possibility of crossing the Jura mountains or to follow the Rhône river and cross the Dombes until the Saône river banks. There, participants gathered one last time before a triumphal arrival in Lyon , parading through the Croix-Rousse bicycle tunnel.

With such a success, the concept was renewed in 2019, again in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region but this time following a different route departing from Puy-en-Velay and bound for Valence.

This second Sun Trip Tour took place under a radiant sun, gathering a record number of participants (more than 50), two solar velomobiles, a dozen committed communities, and almost a dozen partners/sponsors. For two weeks, participants aged 4 to 72 travelled the Auvergne and the Alps mountains climbing up to 2,770 metres whilst promoting gentle mobility and solar energy.

The first three days celebrated central France’s mountain landscape. On the second day, participants climbed the Pas-de-Peyrol, the range’s highest pass. Among the highlights, there was an idyllic campsite around the Cascades Lake (Cheylade), then they passed through the Vulcania Park in partnership with the Riom Limagne et Volcans municipalities. The Ain plain’s crossing led the pack to Divonne-les-Bains in Switzerland following a 400 km long leg. The Chamonix stopover then stroked the first blow but took participants on some of Savoie Mont Blanc’s most iconic roads by the Saisies Pass, the Cormet de Roselend (and its large dam) or the Iseran pass towards the Haute-Maurienne-Vanoise plateaus. Val Cenis was a highlight stopover with local activities and a movie screening that gathered nearly 200 people. On this only rainy day, it is pure luck that not a single participant was still riding! Adventurers were then able to climb the Mont Cenis pass as a festive pack. Their determination was at trial on the Italian roads around Pinerolo, especially on the terrible Finestre and Agnel passes before crossing the Hautes-Alpes then the Drôme departments.

< Galerie Photo STT2019 >

Unprecedented in the Sun Trip’s history, EDF signed several teams in the adventure. Teams were made up of employees from different branches and subsidiaries, notably EDF Renouvelables, CIH, Hydro Alpes and Photowatt. 15 employees took part in the event, making detours to visit some of the hydroelectrical installations!

The World’s Greatest Overland Adventure on the New Silk Roads [2018]

Three years after the last continental event, a third version of the great Sun Trip rally took place in the summer of 2018 between Lyon, France and Guangzhou (Canton), China. Riding across 10 countries and over 12,000 km, 36 adventurers rode on the New Silk Roads to celebrate the 30th anniversary Lyon-Guangzhou city twinning.

The official start took place on the Place des Terreaux in a colorful celebration of Chinese culture with music, food and performances. The group set off on a three-day prologue through Savoy, crossing the Bauges natural park. Start proper was then given in Chamonix, under the peaks of Mont Blanc, a blazing sunshine, and the benevolent eyes of our mentor, navigator Roland Jourdain.

Channelled by the alpine topography, the group then split into two distinct routes: the northern one across the Swiss plateau towards Bavaria, and the southern one via Lombardy, Slovenia, and Hungary.

In Eastern Europe, there was once again major navigation options. Participants trying themselves on the solar challenge chose to ride north through Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan, the flattest and more direct route. However, seven participants decided to head south towards Turkey and the Caspian Sea.

All of them suffered from the capricious weather at this stage of the adventure, except for Raf Van Hulle, who was well ahead in the lead. He travelled 270 km per day and managed to enter China in only 25 days. Romain Neauport was detained a few days at the Russian-Kazakh border due to an expired visa. Helped by favourable winds and an immaculate blue sky, Eric Morel (Team MND – Douze Cycles) set a new distance record with 427 km in one day. Remember that unlike other long-distance cycling events, it is forbidden to ride at night on the Sun Trip.

In Almaty, some participants chose to interrupt their adventure because of being late or of failing equipment. Others decide to initiate a return home on Turkish roads, Patrice Plozner still riding solely with solar and leg energy. Two other teams crossed the Caspian Sea on different ferries and seemingly random schedules. A few days later, Alain Viguier’s bike caught fire at the southern end of Kazakhstan, forcing him to forfeit. Some participants ended up in Uzbekistan, a cordial country whose hospitality is legendary, but a difficult terrain for riders. Finally, Justin and Anne-So broke away from the main course, heading to Iran on their custom-built bicycle-rowing tandem. They couldn’t stay longer as they would have been late for their own wedding!

The crossing of China began in the Xinjiang, where the only accessible road is an expressway linking police checks to one another. Stéphane Bertrand made the only (failed) attempt at a detour which ended up sending him backwards and losing a considerable amount of time. Then, the Taklamakan and Gobi deserts awaited the courageous cyclists with their strong winds before the central Chinese highlands and some of the most emblematic landscapes of China before finishing in the subtropical climate of the Guangdong Province.

< Galerie Photo ST2018 >

In just under 45 days, Raf van Hulle – Team Hyundai Elevator and UniKuu was the first to reach Guangzhou (Canton)clocking some 12,000 km. He was followed by Mickaël Joguet (50 days) and Eric Morel – Team MND – Douze Cycles (52 days).

Participants arrived successively throughout the month of August. On September 1st, an official ceremony welcomed the Sun Trip and highlighted the 30 years of co-operation between Lyon and Guangzhou, in the presence of notables and partners representatives from the Lingnan and WAE group.

The People’s Choice is awarded to Françoise Denel. Despite suffering from a myopathy, she was the dean of the adventure celebrating her 70th birthday the day she entered Kazakhstan. Every day, she published a photo or a video, sometimes funny, often moving and demonstrative of her tenacity.

The Jury’s Pick for communication went to Jack Butler – Team Newquest, a skillful drone pilot whose videos were edited after dark.

Finally, the organizing team highlighted with a “coup de coeur” award the incredible adventure of tenacity lived by Youssef and Mohamed Said, the first African participants. The able-disabled duo had to face harsher visa restrictions than others on the trip

Le prix du public est remporté par la doyenne Françoise Denel, qui a soufflé les bougies de son 70e anniversaire le jour de son entrée au Kazakhstan. Atteinte d’une neuromyopathie, elle publiait un journal de bord quotidien, tour à tour drôle et émouvant, démontrant l’acier de sa ténacité.

The Sun Trip 2021

After the 2020 global crisis, the Sun Trip 2021 change the route, no more Lyon-Guangzhou possible so we create The Sun Trip Europe! The show can go on!


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