Tuesday 2 August 2016

Posted by Velouria Posted on 10:29 | 1 comment

France 2016

Say what you like about the French, but when it comes to bikes and cycling, they get it. And I'm not just talking about the skinny lycra-clad pro wannabe cyclists. Anyone on two wheels is treated with respect, from those skinny lycra-clad pro wannabes, to crazy long distance randonneurs, from daily commuters to weekend warriors.

Quiet country roads, and hills!
Solo adventures in the French countryside
It's unnerving at first to have an 18 wheeler truck drive behind you for kilometers on end, grinding away in second gear as the driver waits for an opportunity to overtake. And by overtake, I don't mean the South African definition of give a warning blast on the hooter and then proceed at full speed regardless, passing with millimeters to spare.  The French definition of overtaking is the same for all road users - wait until the oncoming lane is clear, indicate, pull over into the oncoming lane, pass the cyclist/tractor/horse/camper van, indicate, return to lane. While we're begging for passing space legislation of just one metre, the French give 1.5 metres. Which is plenty when you see how narrow some of their roads are.

Emergency water stop
And it's not just about road safety. Cycling is part of their lifestyle, their culture. The easiest way to strike up a conversation with a French person is to do so with your bike nearby. For some reason, a bicycle is like a secret symbol or mystic handshake that opens the doors to an exclusive club. I've had whole conversations about cycling, the Tour de France, bicycles and bike riders with French people while not understanding a single word. These conversations usually involve lots of arm waving, some wild gesticulating at bicycle parts, a random French word here and there, and smiles all round.

TDF - fun for the whole family

Kids, firemen, foreigners
Glamour shot

Where else would an entire village come to a standstill in a carnival atmosphere? Entire communities celebrating the passing of the Tour de France. Kids on jumping castles, families lining the streets, local craft beer flowing.

Dane 0 - Tourmalet 1
The French take a pride in knowing that foreigners have travelled halfway around the world just to come and cycle in their beautiful country, and they've embraced this. Whether you're climbing the legendary climbs of the Tour de France, or just cruising the country lanes, you're a guest in their country and they treat you like one.

A family affair
All you need is a bike


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