Exclusive travel report: With the Solex from Bern to Paris

A dream comes true! With the Velo-Solex from Münsingen near Bern to the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Autor: Katrin Lienhart

It all started with a somewhat crazy idea: Thomas from Münsingen dreamed of traveling to Paris to the Eiffel Tower in a small group on his old Velosolex! He even found like-minded people: Ernst “Aschi” from Hettiswil and Monika and Hansueli from Bolligen. In a roundabout way, Katrin and Noldi from Rekingen in Aargau joined us, who had never sat on a Solex before!

A particularly fortunate stroke of luck was that Hansueli had a stylish vintage support vehicle: he made his iconic and well-maintained Citroën HY named “Tathy” available for the trip. Thanks to a ingenious loading concept, the red and white “corrugated metal bus” with its small trailer was not only able to transport all the luggage, including tools and a considerable amount of spare parts, but, if necessary, could also accommodate the six Solex and all travel participants.

Breakdowns and navigation problems. . .

After a few preliminary discussions, nights of planning the route and looking for accommodation, we finally started on Monday, September 11th, 2023: with great sympathies from relatives and acquaintances, we started in Münsingen. But after just a few kilometers, between Worb and Boll, the first Solex gave up the ghost - pure frustration! The “Tathy” was needed so that Hansueli’s replacement Solex could be unloaded and the defective Solex could be loaded. Along Lake Neuchâtel, it became apparent that Google Maps did not always correspond to reality, which lead to a little odyssey. It shouldn't be the only one on this trip!

At the first destination, at the “Hotel Restaurant De La Truite” in Champ du Moulin Dessous, the gifted Solex mechanics Thomas and Aschi made their first attempts at repairs; unfortunately unsuccessful for the time being. It wasn't until the next morning that it was noticed that the seat for the check ball on the fuel pump was not installed correctly. After resolving this problem, the “Pfufferli” (coll.: a loving name for a chugging moped) was running again and was ready for new adventures.

And they came promptly: Shortly after the start there were again navigation problems and the lively Solexlers unexpectedly found themselves on a stubby hiking trail in the secluded Areuse gorge. Fortunately, oncoming pedestrians reacted friendly and benevolently, sometimes with disbelieving amazement, to the rattling Velosolex, and there were some funny conversations.

. . . but the best atmosphere and great accommodations

Hardly a day went by without a breakdown: ignition problems, several loose or lost screws and nuts (vibrating!), flat tires, a chain that had jumped out, engines failing, but also “petrol breakdowns” (= empty tank!) ensured that there was no boredom. Hansueli regularly had to help us out with his “relaxation vehicle”. With stoic calm (or Bernese coziness?), always in a good mood and a lot of creativity, Aschi and Thomas repaired the old motorbikes again and again, often with the help of Noldi and Hansueli. Sometimes the work was carried out directly on the street, sometimes only in the evening or early morning at the accommodation. Even a rainy day couldn't dampen the good mood: the six Solex were loaded without further ado and the whole group completed the stage from Chapelle-d'Huin to Toulouse-le-Château in the Citroën HY. This left enough time for a visit to the “Source du Lison” including the impressive grotto. In the evening, the Solex-free day ended with a cool beer in the indoor swimming pool at the “D’Tour Gourmand” accommodation; a cozy house with lots of charm, winding stairs and hidden rooms.

In general, the great accommodation that Monika had chosen contributed a lot to the good atmosphere. For example, the “Domaine de la Corgette” in Saint-Romain, a winery with an indoor swimming pool in the vaulted cellar; “Les Epis d’Or” in L’Isle-sur-Serein, probably the most original accommodation of the entire trip with very friendly hosts who personally cook for their guests and serve them in their pub; the old, somewhat run-down but still stylish country estate “Domaine de Sainte Anne” in Venoy; the “Chambres d’hôtes Vue sur la Muraille de Sens” in Sens with a secluded garden complete with many animals or the inconspicuous “Maison d’Emilie” in Chaumes-en-Brie, behind whose walls there is a beautiful courtyard with a garden. 

Paris, nous venons!

After nine eventful days with often wonderful, but sometimes difficult stages (bicycle routes in France are sometimes more like a gravelly streambed than a bicycle path!), the Solex group reached the last accommodation on Tuesday, September 19th, 23, which was rented for several days: an Airbnb apartment in Juvisy-sur-Orge, right on the Seine. The Solex and the “Tathy” could be parked safely in the lockable courtyard. And then it was said: just sleep one more time until Paris! 

The next morning, the last 30 km to the center of the French capital were covered on the Solex. The HY stayed in Juvisy. The roads, which were very bad in places, and the increasingly dense traffic once again demanded everything from man and machine. Once again you could only be amazed at what the old “Pfufferlis” can endure!

Then the long-awaited, big moment: Hansueli, Monika, Aschi, Thomas, Noldi and Katrin stood in front of the Eiffel Tower with their Solex, overjoyed and a little proud! What a wonderful feeling! – Afterwards, how could it be otherwise, there was one or two adversities in Paris: with their yellow Solex vests, the six Swiss Confederates did not cause vain joy everywhere (Mouvement des “Gilets jaunes” . . .). The elevator in the Eiffel Tower was on strike, which is why the champagne to celebrate the day had to be drunk on the second platform instead of on the top, third platform. And the whole city was swarmed with police because King Charles and Camilla were in Paris at the same time. – But in the end, it’s exactly surprises like this that are the salt in the soup or the pepper in the Solex trip!

In any case, after visiting the Eiffel Tower, the brave Solex drivers didn't miss the opportunity to circle around the Arc de Triomphe several times and drive up and down the Champs-Élyseées, all under the observation of many police officers and passersby. It can't be said exactly whether they were there because of Charles and Camilla or because of the cool motorbike group from Switzerland. – What a beautiful end to a great, unique and unforgettable trip!

….the way home

In order to save the Solex the challenge of a return trip from Paris, our “Pfupferli” were loaded into “Tathy's” trailer as planned. Monika and Hansueli took the return journey in their classic car, while the rest of the crew were transported back to everyday life by TGV at a rapid pace.