Visit France with FranceThisWay

As soon as spring arrives here in south-west France we start to see the happy sight of young couples taking cycling holidays together, a perfect way to explore the countryside, chat peacefully and to commune with nature – or so you might think.

The reality is almost always slightly different…instead of the couple cycling along together, chattering and listening to the birdsong, and for reasons that are slightly unclear, men always seem to feel the need to cycle at least 10 metres in front of their partners, and often several hundred metres ahead.

Years of observing holiday couples cycling in France have convinced me that couples almost never cycle together, and even more rarely with the lady out in front while the male follows behind. Strange but true, although perhaps the first thing to remember is that if you set off together and arrive home together neither of you has actually gone any faster…

I have never worked out if it is the men trying not to cycle with their wives, or the other way around.

The next thing I should point out to male cyclists is that your wives aren’t struggling along behind just to keep up with you. Usually they are looking much more calm and relaxed than you are, and a good number are winking flirtatiously at those handsome young cyclists in lycra heading in the opposite direction.

Surely it can’t be that they could keep up if they wanted to, but actually prefer to cycle along alone?

Behaving childishly – beating men at their own game

Anyway, just in case you are a lady who wants to irritate their partner by overtaking them at the end of the ride (I’m all for causing disagreements and upsets on holiday!) here is my advice:

1) If the chance arises lower their saddle by two or three centimetres and discretely let a bit of air out of their tyres before you set off. Both of these will ensure your partner tires more quickly. Of course, he should already be carrying a substantial picnic in his backpack – might I suggest that pork pies, dried sausages, fruit cake and cans of coke are particularly heavy when carried in large quantities.

2) Don’t EVER try to catch up with your partner with a sudden burst of speed when cycling along. You need to keep cycling at a regular pace or your own legs will tire out too quickly.

3 ) Never say that you are getting off the bike for a minute because a hill is too steep, say that you are stopping because your gears are sticking. They won’t believe you but that way your partner will (a) have to come back down the hill to help you and (b) try to fix it, and then have to cycle the second half of the route covered in oil (unless you put a large quantity of handy wet-wipes in his backpack?)

4) Your final winning move requires a small amount of forward preparation. Before you set off, quietly put a cereal bar and a handful of dried apricots in your pocket. You should then eat these without your partner seeing (easily done since they are cycling off ahead in the distance somewhere) about five kilometres from the end of the ride.

That way you will get an energy boost for the last couple of kilometres just as your partner is running out of steam, and it will be very easy for you to whoosh past them grinning about 200 metres from the ‘finish line’ (as men like to call it) or ‘end of the ride’ (as ladies on holiday prefer to call it).

Childish, probably, but we ‘gentlemen’ have been treating the most pleasurable activities as ‘unannounced and unofficial competitions’ since time immemorial, so it won’t do any harm for you to do the same from time to time

Anyway, whichever method you choose don’t forget to give me a wave if you are cycling in the Dordogne this summer – you can’t miss me, I’ll be the old bloke puffing and panting and wearing inappropriate clothing that you both proudly overtook during your ride!

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