Saturday, 11 June 2016

A leap into the dark...

No, not a blog about the EU referendum (though that might follow tomorrow), but one about the potential perils of press-ganging a spouse into doing something that's not her usual tasse de thé.

Yes, this week me and the long-suffering missus spent four days riding our bicycles round the borders of Normandy and Brittany in France. We were racking our brains to try to think of the longest ride she'd ever done before. 16 miles up and down a pan-flat canal towpath was our best recollection, though her more regular trips are the 2.5 miles into town and the same returning. So to plan to do 130 miles in 3.5 days over - at least initially - undulating terrain was quite ambitious. How would the sit bones cope? Would cramp ensue? With panniers on the back would we end up walking up every incline? And then there was her to consider...

Well, the fact I'm sitting here writing this means she didn't kill me. There have been a couple of kilometre-long hills when murderous thoughts could have been occurring to her, but she kept schtum, popped it in a low gear (taking my "spin, don't grind" advice fully on board), and emerged triumphant at the top. Day 1 turned out to be 40 miles, 2200 feet of climbing in temperatures of 22c plus, with reasonably full panniers - a sterling effort for a first 'proper' day in the saddle. Especially when added to a morning bee sting on, erm, her front panniers shall we say.

It helped, however, that we were, as usual, in some gorgeous French countryside. Very quickly, Day 1 was Combourg to Ducey, a lovely small town just to the south-east of Avranches; Day 2 was Ducey to Dol-de-Bretagne via the coast road round the Bay of Mont St. Michel, and included a trip onto the Mont itself, braving the tourist hordes to do so; Day 3 was Dol to Saint Suliac via lunch at the lovely fishing (and gastronomic heaven) port of Cancale, and Day 4 was Saint Suliac back to Combourg. I'm not going to tell you anything about Saint Suliac or else you might want to go to one of the officially Plus Beaux Villages de France, and that would never do. It must stay a hidden gem, just for locals...

There were no days as hilly as the first, though 44 miles, no lunch, and higher temperatures on Day 2 meant the only unplanned "Right! We're stopping here!" moment. The weather was good throughout, apart from 30 minutes light rain on the final morning, we stayed in some nice places (both places and lodgings themselves), and we ate well, and lunch on Day 2 aside, often. We had no punctures, mechanicals, or offs. And we had, of course, French lanes on routes that I'd planned quite carefully, with all their sights, smells and characters. Cycling on French back roads remains my favourite thing in the world to do, ever.

So, a really good week. Will we do it again? Too early to say I guess. At least next time it won't be a leap into the dark.

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