(by Elle Smith)
I seem to have got into the wonderful habit of doing a cycle tour for a week or two each summer – this year was no exception. In late August I packed up my tent and sleeping bag and cycled off to Portsmouth and thence to France. It was a glorious 8 days of cycling which took me through Normandy, Brittany, the Atlantic coast of Payee de la Loire and finally into the high and hilly Limousin for a nice sit down/ sleep before training back. Here are a random collection of thoughts I had and things I learned:
1. Men’s and women’s saddles are in fact different for a reason. No, its not just a Victorian throw back or an attempt by cycle companies to get more money out of us as I had previously thought. We ARE anatomically different (surprise surprise) and I would NEVER cycle 800km (or even 50km) on a men’s saddle again, it was VERY uncomfortable and I spent much of my time trying to find new and inventive ways sitting or not sitting on my saddle. I am now in the market for a women’s version.
2. Dijon mustard goes with everything. Yes, everything, it is a wonder food.
3. Oringina is cycling fuel, and taste a lot better in France than it does in England.
4. I have finally understood the point of cleats – and (mostly) got over my fear of being clipped in to something with wheels. Going uphill (and there were a lot of hills) with a loaded bike and getting the forward trust with the up-pull of the pedal stroke as well as the downward push makes you go a lot faster. I’m converted.
5. Two tips on cycle touring in France – if you plan to take any TGV trains with your bike (and this is pretty easy and not stressful) book cycle spaces when you book your ticket. You can do it here (www.raileurope.co.uk). Michelin 1:150,000 road maps are the best I’ve found for route planning (I always bring a highlighter so I can mark my route as I go along and feel astonished how far I can go on a bike).
Turns out this is my 5th cycle tour in France, and its quiet roads and diverse scenery (not to mention the good food and cheap ferries) keep drawing me back. But I think I’ll spread my wings go somewhere even more exotic next year, like, I don’t know…Germany!