A Summer of Cycling

Chris and I have always cycled. I think I may have started first, as I used to cycle to infant school, and then to junior and senior school. I cycled everywhere when I was at uni in Oxford, and ditto during my postgrad year in Stirling. When I started work at Hodder & Stoughton in Dunton Green, just outside Sevenoaks, I cycled to and from the train station at either end of my journey from Tunbridge Wells. And this was way before it was cool to be a bike commuter!

Then I met Chris, who fortunately came with wheels attached. Apart from our honeymoon, every one of our holidays has included cycling. Pre-children we had a tent and paniers and did some great tours, up mountains and covering huge distances, mainly camping but with the odd night in hotels. Then, once we had the children in tow, we still cycled but not such great distances. We based ourselves in one place and did half-day bike rides with the kids variously in child seats, on trailer bikes or cycling independently. We cycled regularly at home in Ireland, soon learning to avoid Sunday mornings at Mass time as motorists would lose all sense of reason in the rush not to be late. It wasn’t a safe time to be on the road!

Cycling

We carried on cycling in France after we moved to Les Fragnes, but generally not more than an hour or so at a time, which was all we could fit in and/or persuade the youngsters to do with us. But this summer, it’s seen the relaunch of our more serious cycling. Rors now being 15, we decided not to insist on dragging him out on every ride, but took off on our own. Rors is not the world’s most enthusiastic cyclist, it has to be said, so all concerned were quite relieved! Joined by Caiti, Chris and I have gradually been increasing our distances. This really has been the summer of cycling for us. We now regularly do 30-40km rides, with some longer ones of upward of 50km, the biggest thus far being 63km, incorporating a café en route. It’s been a real delight to linger with fresh croissants or pains aux raisins or amandines and a crème (grand for Chris, petit for me) or chocolat chaud at an outside table before continuing on our way. We’ve become fond of the café cat at Ste Sévère, one of our regular rides!

Caiti and the cafe cat

We avoid busy roads as much as possible, but can’t avoid all traffic and it’s been noticeable that drivers don’t seem to be as good around cyclists as they used to be. The law is that it’s perfectly legal for cyclists to ride two abreast so long as they’re not blocking the whole of a road, but we still sometimes get angry hoots from cars as they go round us. Also, the law dictates that drivers should overtake leaving a gap of one metre from the rider’s left shoulder to their vehicle. That rarely happens – we’re lucky if it’s 25cms most of the time. On narrow roads, oncoming traffic hardly ever slows down or moves over to allow us adequate space. We’re obviously meant to ride into the ditch rather than inconvenience them by making them lift their foot briefly off the accelerator or move the steering wheel a fraction to the right!

Admiring Boussac castle

But generally our rides are thoroughly enjoyable and we’re getting quite adventurous now. The summer may be over but our cycling will continue. Chris is planning longer and longer routes, the goal being a 100km circuit! We’ve bought in some cold weather gear so that winter won’t spoil our rides too often. We’re making time again for riding and I’m so glad we are. We’re the brownest and fittest we’ve ever been. The suntan will fade but not the healthy glow our favourite sport gives us.

Watching the vineyard at Chateaumeillant