Cycling in France – Word from the Mr

I’m sure that Colette has mentioned before that I do a bit of cycling. Over the past 3 years it’s become something of a hobby for me and a form of exercise that I really enjoy. Now it had never occurred to me to take our bikes over to France when we went on holiday as I didn’t think we would have the time really, but when Colette’s Dad mentioned that he and Nic were taking theirs I jumped at the chance. So what follows are my thoughts on cycling in France. It’s worth bearing in mind that I only cycled around Brittany and there might be a difference between what I experienced and the country as a whole.

I didn’t take any photos of Dave cycling in France – so here’s one from Filey instead!

The French are incredibly polite to cyclists. I don’t know if it’s because of ‘le Tour’ or just because they are more polite than us Brits but it is a completely different environment to ride in. Forget about the sunshine for a minute. Although that was nice. It was the amount of space and time motorists give you that amazed me. Coming from doing most of my cycling in Manchester and Preston in city conditions and on ‘A’ roads where bus drivers actively try and kill you (I wish I was joking) and cars will pull over to the curb to stop you from riding past them on the way to a set of red lights. It was a refreshing change to see people give you ample space. Ample doesn’t even really cover it, huge amounts of space is more like it! I was cycling up a hill with a roundabout at the top and the queue of very slow moving traffic crawling up the hill all moved into the centre of the road to give me space. It was surreal. Like I was Moses parting the waves. It got tiring constantly raising my hand to say thanks! Also if there isn’t room for the car driver to get past you without giving plenty of room then they wait behind you. Not just for thirty seconds then force you off the road whilst honking their horns angrily. They just wait.

The cycle lanes are massive. Here in England you get cycle lanes. They are about eighteen inches wide and quite often they run for six feet then stop abruptly. In Brittany the cycle lanes on the larger roads are the same width as a car lane. You can easily ride two abreast and still have plenty of room. That coupled with the fact that cars which pass you still move over to the centre of the road means you have huge amounts of space which is just lovely.

Quality road surfaces in North Yorkshire . . . 
The roads are in a better state. We all know what the roads are like over here. Tarmac it seems, exists in a permanently broken cracked mess with potholes that threaten to engulf smaller vehicles whose drivers haven’t been paying enough attention! I’m sure we’ve all seen something like a Smart car stuck in a large crevice with the occupants scratching their heads before having to climb out to continue on foot. It’s a daily occurrence. What you might not know is that the only suspension that is on most road bikes is your backside! This makes the road surface something you are VERY aware of. If you’ve ever seen a cyclist swerve out into the middle of the road he/she probably doesn’t have a death wish. They just want to avoid a pothole, because if they rode over it the subsequent jolt would wedge that seat where the sun does not shine. In Brittany I saw very few potholes. This might be because they don’t suffer the cold winters that we do but whatever the reason the surface over there was smoother and more pleasant than the first swig of a cold beer on a hot day in a lovely beer garden with your best mates. It really was great. My backside has never been so happy with tarmac. That is a promise.

It wasn’t all brilliant though. Much as I didn’t have too many problems with driving on the wrong side of the road. Riding up to a large busy roundabout when everyone is going the “wrong way” is a bowel loosening experience to say the least. Maybe this is why the French are so reluctant to get too close to cyclists. If you thought that getting bird poo on your car is unpleasant then just imagine what it would be like if………..I don’t need to finish that sentence do I?

To be fair you do get used to being on the wrong side though so even the roundabouts become less scary over time. All in all its like being spoilt cycling over there and I think I shall miss it when I get back on my bike here in blighty.
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3 Comments

  1. January 9, 2016 / 4:17 pm

    You mentioned on Instagram that you might have a post to link up to my #AllAboutFrance linky. This would be a good one! It's still open for 4 more days.

    • January 9, 2016 / 8:07 pm

      Good thinking! I'd forgotten about this post! x

  2. January 11, 2016 / 3:04 pm

    I'm pleased the Mr enjoyed cycling in France. I'm so used to seeing cyclists on the road and giving them time and space, living as I do in one of the most popular parts of France (for cycling and general everything!) that it's surprising to hear it isn't like this everywhere. Thanks for linking to #AllAboutFrance

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