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Jean Louis Mérelle: “I believe in my instincts”.

13.11.2023 - The Sun Trip
The Sun Trip The Sun Trip

Jean-Louis is a sportsman in a variety of disciplines, with a passion for electronics and technology, and a love of nature, particularly the mountains. He’s a Jack-of-all-trades, and curious about nature. He was a brilliant first-time participant in the Sun Trip Alpes 2023. We’re delighted to count him among the participants in this new adventure in 2024! Read his interview below.

Compared to the Tour of the Alps, how do you feel about this hotter and more adventurous edition?

After the Alps, I’m certainly setting myself a much higher bar, but I’m trusting my instincts, which have always brought me luck. It’s not the first time I’ve put myself to the test, and it’s a great test! After the Alps, where the weather was fairly cool and sometimes wet, I’m now just as excited about the hot sands of the desert. The dream of doing a trek on foot in these landscapes was slowly fading, but I never imagined that one day I’d embark on the project of doing it on a trike! A new adventure!


Are you entered in the adventure or racing category? Why did you make this choice?

I’ve entered myself in the ‘adventurer’ category, but an adventurer who sometimes likes to run a bit …. So? Of course I also like to stop and chat with the locals without having to look at my watch, which is why I think being a ‘baroudeur’ is wiser for me. Also, if I were 20 years younger, that would be something else…


Do you plan to make any changes to your bike between now and then?

No major changes. From a mechanical point of view, there won’t be any major changes because I’m happy with this configuration. Electrically, I’ve changed the rear motor controller for a more powerful model. I’m going to try to lose a bit more weight (not me) on the boxes and accessories to make sure I don’t go over the 80kg limit.


Do you use it outside the Sun Trip editions?

Yes, I do! With the Sun Trip 2023 and as of today 3/10/23, I’ve covered around 5300 km since May 2023. Quite a few rides in my region. This summer I also went back in the footsteps of Sun Trip Alpes 2023 to do or redo 4 passes around Barcelonnette and also Forcalquier, where I climbed to the summit of Mont Ventoux, a very fine ascent…


From a more general point of view, what is your vision of Sun Trip?

An essential platform for comparing your equipment in sometimes difficult conditions and improving it. But above all, it’s a group dynamic that’s essential if you want to move forward in the same spirit. It’s also a fine example of the different possible configurations for taking advantage of solar mobility, to be shown along the way.


What prompted you to design your first solar bike?

I’ve been using photovoltaic panels for over 30 years, both for my caravan and on my rucksack for self-propelled hiking trips, so I wanted to adapt them to my electrically-assisted upright bike. In 2021, I bought a panel and a trailer for my upright bike, which I’ve already travelled around 2,000 km with.

Seeing the potential of solar energy on my bike, I set about building my second, more ambitious solar bike, based on a trike for the Sun Trip Alpes 2023.


What is your analysis of the 2024 route project? Any decisive sectors?

It’s true that we’re perhaps not starting at the best time of the year for solar racing. The sun is a bit low and the weather may not always be at its best. In the first part, good energy management will be essential. But that’s precisely the interesting thing about it. Nevertheless, the north/south route will enable us to catch the sun’s rays well in the morning and evening, provided we have orientable panels. Crossing the Pyrenees will undoubtedly be the first decisive factor in these conditions.

On arrival in Portugal, we’ll gradually leave the mountains behind us and then head rapidly southwards. The sun will be more generous and temperatures will rise gradually.

Then, after a short crossing of the Straits of Gibraltar, it’s Morocco at last! And then it’s off to discover a country rich in scenery, contrasts and a stimulating history. The sun will be our guide and our unfailing fuel, but be careful not to overdo it! The heat will be with us even in April, and we’ll need to keep a close eye on both man and machine. Although the roads will generally be good, we mustn’t overestimate our machines. In some places, the sand in the mechanics could be our enemy… something to keep an eye on…

We’ll be sure to have plenty of water in our packs, but be careful when refuelling, as the roads will be long….

Then it’s back via the Moroccan Atlas mountains, with their sumptuous landscapes. Then it’s back across to Spain, where the sun will be shining more and more, and we hope it will stay with us until we arrive in France!


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