Bike v Wine

We are currently away on a family holiday in France where I’ve discovered the beauty of riding a terrible bike. The beauty being its help in forever appreciating a good one. Being our first holiday with a baby, we were tight for space in the car and so I faced a tough choice. If I squeezed in the bike and its associated kit, there would be no room to bring home wine. It was a choice between a few short cycles around the Loire Valley on my own bike, or a year’s supply of fine wine at cellar-door prices. Fortunately I managed to find a nice holiday gite with bikes available to borrow, so this somewhat lessened the blow.

The bike cave

A bike cave 

Naturally, upon arriving one of the first things I did was headed off to investigate the bike situation. I discovered a cave full of ‘family bikes’. In preparation for this likely outcome I hadn’t come prepared to cycle any long distances – in fact the only cycling item I’d brought from home was a water bottle. Ironically, none the bikes had a bottle cage so my token effort was wasted.


Inappropriate clothing alert – when the nose of your saddle protrudes beneath your running shorts, that’s officially indecent 



Forget your Alpine ascents on lightweight carbon fibre bikes. Riding this beast up a small hill left me gasping for breath

I’d chosen the most rigid looking of the bikes, pumped up its enormous tyres and set off. Its squeakiness made me feel like the Pied Piper leading an army of noisy rats across the Loire Valley while changing gears seemed to result in a machine-gun rattle for a random period of time before settling onto the cog.

More grip than a Chinese burn on these tyres

These beefy tyres would be good on my car 


Peeling render and closed shutters – picturesque French villages 


Enjoyable summer cycling 

Bobbing head, grimacing, etc. just to climb a small lump on the landscape

Bobbing head, grimacing, etc. just to climb a small lump on the landscape

I only went for a shortish ride – 14 miles through sleepy French villages, amongst the sunflowers and vineyards. And despite disturbing the peace like some sort of rampaging army of out-of-breath rats erratically firing their machine guns, it was enjoyable to back in the saddle covering miles and feeling the sun on my back. And when your average speed is significantly less than 14 miles per hour, 14 miles isn’t such a short ride either. At least we’ll have plenty of room for wine on the way home.

Le Pain: une tradition

Ms BikeVCar has now joined me on holiday and we’ve been having a nice relaxing time enjoying the fine French sights, food, weather and wine. Some of our explorations have been by bike, some by car.

Chateau de Cenonceau

Ms BikeVCar at the Château de Saumur

Château de Brézé

Ms BikeVCar and I have been on two long rides together; the first 50km and the second 70km. She was initially suffering from some knee pain but a slight adjustment to her saddle height seemed to successfully resolve this issue. However, her bike was also making an irregular clicking noise whose origin was difficult to determine. My first attempt with the Allen key ended up making the noise louder and more regular and my immediate reaction to say “that’s good, at least we’ve determined what’s causing the clicking noise” was (according to the female half of our group) “a very blokey thing to say”. Apparently some people would say that the fact I’d made the problem worse was sound evidence that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

“If I just turn this screw clockwise, or is it anticlockwise …”

To make up for this, the female half of our tour decided to try combining cycling with other enjoyable pursuits as we passed through town centres.

Do you stop the clock for window shopping?

Cross-country sightseeing by road bike

One of the great things about holidaying is having the time and the opportunity to watch the sun set in new surroundings. After an enjoyable dinner in Saumur we went for a walk along the Loire and stopped to enjoy the colours thrown across the river by the setting sun.

Sunset in Saumur

This afternoon, after an enjoyable day exploring the brocantes (a cross between an antique shop and a flea market) we headed back for the last evening in our gite. Tomorrow we will be heading North towards the French coast and looking for a nice B&B for our last two nights on holiday. With this in mind, I decided to head out for a ride this evening as it was my last opportunity to enjoy the quiet and flat roads of the Loire Valley. I rode 36 km at an average speed of 33km/h which is the first time I’ve averaged above 32km/h (20mph) for a ride. With only 140m of climbing this was admittedly largely due to the flatness of the land. But with an average heart rate of 155 bpm for over an hour it took a good amount of pain and suffering to achieve this target. The highlight of my ride was being slowly overtaken by a farmer in his old Citroen van honking his horn, pumping his fist and shouting “Allez”! I felt proud to be respectfully observing the great cycling tradition in France.

Observing the tradition