Don’t be over-ambitious, plan your route making due allowance for hills on the way and for the possibility of the headwinds that will scrub lots of speed off your ride.
It isn’t a race, so take it steady and allow plenty of time for frequent pit stops to take in the local sites, sit down to eat or merely to give the legs a rest.
Nothing can beat using your own familiar kit so, if you have a bike you really like, then try to take it along. You will also probably be happier with your own helmet and if you normally ride clip-in pedals then take along not only your cycling shoes but those pedals too.
If you are to ride a supplied bike then make sure to choose one that’s comfortable and don’t set the saddle too high or low – your leg should be very slightly bent when you place your heel on the pedal.
Carry as much as you can on your bike’s panniers rather than in a backpack.
‘Drink and eat little and often’ is the serious cyclist’s mantra. It works well for gentler rides too. Energy bars and drinks, chocolate and pieces of fruit are excellent for staving off ‘the knock’ – that awful feeling of complete weakness that overtakes any cyclist who gets into serious sugar debt. Steer clear of fizzy drinks and excessive alcohol, though nothing beats a cold beer savoured al fresco halfway through a ride.
Beware the sun! A cooling breeze when riding may hide the fact you are burning. You will be most comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt or cycling jersey but cover those exposed bits with sun bloc.
Rural back roads are very quiet and motorists in France are far more tolerant of sharing the space with cyclists than are those at home. However, it is not usual to ride two abreast.
On towpaths be courteous to pedestrians and anglers. A cheery “Bonjour!” works wonders.
Pace yourself. Counting down the kilometre posts found at the side of most roads helps things roll by.
Make sure you always carry a fully detailed map or set of riding instructions, a reserve of food and drink, some small change, a mobile – and the appropriate phone numbers should you have problems – and a camera to capture all those happy memories. Cycling mitts are a good idea, while cycling shorts have a special padded insert to help avert saddle soreness.
By cycling expert and ex-editor of the Tour de France Magazine Roger St Pierre – a man who has cycled in France for decades. Despite his French name, veteran globetrotting writer Roger St. Pierre is proudly British. He is, though, passionately Francophile and has been to every one of France’s 94 metropolitan departments.
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