I’m without a bike this morning – it seems I have been overdoing it and have stretched the chain! Result is I can’t go out for a ride, which always puts me in a bad humour for the day. Not that I’m any good you understand, I can’t imagine how I stretched a chain, but I do like to stretch my legs, and I can’t abide walking or jogging
I did look pretty impressive cycling home yesterday though – even if I do say so myself. There was a howling gale helping me along and I was doing about 40kmh without too much effort, despite the absence of most of my gears.
One curious aspect of travelling around France is that some regions seem to attract hundreds of cyclists, and it only takes the slightest excuse for all the locals don their lycra, whereas in other regions cyclists are practically an endangered species.
Around where we live (southern Dordogne) cycling is very popular, perhaps because of the rolling landscape. That is, there are plenty of hills but nothing too terrible and nothing like a mountain to be seen. The Luberon (Provence) last year was also jam-packed with cyclists, perhaps for the same reasons.
Things are different in the mountains and more hilly regions. There are usually a few cyclists around in the mountains but they always look much tougher than those around here. I guess that if you live somewhere very hilly you either give up on the idea of cycling as too difficult, or you stick at it and become very strong very quickly.
Cyclists in the Massif Central a couple of weeks ago were sailing up hills faster than I usually go down them, and still looking happy and relaxed – a pretty tough bunch who would laugh to see our efforts around here. Whereas up in Brittany last week Mrs B says she didn’t see a single cyclist all week.
I looked through some of the companies offering cycling holidays in France and it is true that Dordogne, Provence, Loire Valley and Burgundy seem the most popular, and they do all have rolling landscapes. Brittany, Alsace and Lot also get an occasional mention. If you are tough and want to follow the popular Tour de France climbs there are a couple of companies in the Alps and Pyrenees who will follow behind to help when you find out you are not in such good shape as you thought.
Either way, it sounds like a good way to spend a week or two if you haven’t booked your holiday yet.
If you prefer to stay in your car, here’s a couple of requests:
- Don’t drive right up behind a cyclist and then hoot very loudly, like the idiot who did that to me yesterday (in an English car, incidentally). It they know you are ther it won’t help, and if they aren’t yet aware of you they’ll probably fall off in surprise.
- Don’t try to overtake the bike unless you can leave at least a metre between your car and the cyclist – the car creates a draft that can suck the cyclist into the road, and in front of the car behind.
- Don’t expect the cyclist to drive along in the gravel at the edge of the road to let you overtake them. All that happens then is that the bike gets a puncture. Just wait a minute for a clear stretch of road.
But you’ll enjoy yourself much more if you leave the car at home and get on your own bike instead…