It may not be much to you, but... - Pedalling to the pictures - CycleBlaze

March 22, 2022

It may not be much to you, but...

The Girls of Bressuire gaze in mutual admiration outside the town's station as the Lovely Mrs Woodland shrinks in size between them
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THERE IS JOY in mawkish self-pity. Only saints would say otherwise. But it is a solitary pleasure not easily shared, so I'll keep this short. Wallow as much or as little as you please.

  The truth is that the pleasure had gone out of cycle-touring. The fun was there in theory but not in practice. Annoying physical inadequacies turned hills that were once larks' wings of soaring pleasure into grovelling, athletic penury.

  Pride had to be swallowed. That, or bikes that once longed for sunlight would be left to strangle in spiders' webs. So I bought a motor.

  I have yet to meet anyone, serious cyclists included, who sees this as anything but logical and commendable. I remain ashamed, however. Or I did until I set off on this trip of a few days and found the old happiness had been restored. I had, as I had been promised I'd have, the legs I owned two decades earlier. And yet by keeping the setting, the degree of electrical push, to its minimum, I still had the sensation, the pleasure of pushing on hills. For that to me is important: I want a bicycle, not a motorbike; I want to revel in the sensation of pedalling; and I value the tiredness of summer evenings.

  Well, we are fortunate here in France to have an increasing number of weekends dedicated to making friends, meeting travellers and enjoying films of voyages that many of us will never make.

  One of those festivals, a new one and linked to two of our dearest friends, was promised at Bressuire. You won't find it easily on a map because there's not much there: a château of no importance, a station with just a few trains, everything that a town and its people might want but little that tugs you to return.

  In two days of gentle riding, it stands north of Niort. And that in turn is about level with Poitiers, which is about halfway up the country on its left.

  Niort has the novelty of being the centre of the French insurance business, the Catholics, Protestants and Communists having set up rival attractions there a century or more earlier. None now boasts of its origins and they stand beside each other in glass-and-steel temples beside the city's internal ring road.

  Niort is also home to Patrice and Anne-Lise, cycling friends. They and their city are on the edge of the flat and peaceful Marais, a stretch of sea bed drained by ancients and later monks, and it was there that I first turned the dinky but embarrassing motor that has brought happiness back to cycling.

  I'm not promising you mountainous battles and heroic distances. There'll be none of that. A few hours on a disused railway bed, yes, that I can offer. And the discovery of the Belly Button of the World - though that, lest you grow over-excited at the prospect, I must tell you now was closed.

If all that, or just that, suffices then I'm pleased. Do ride along with us and, if you feel encouraged to prolong your own days with a touch of battery power, I'll be pleased.

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Comment on this entry Comment 4
Steve Miller/GrampiesIt's fun to be reading a new bit of Leo prose!
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5 months ago
Bill ShaneyfeltGood to see you back on the bike! Eager to read more of your entertaining observations.
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5 months ago
Leo WoodlandTo Steve Miller/GrampiesThanks, Steve!
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5 months ago
Leo WoodlandTo Bill ShaneyfeltThanks, Bill
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5 months ago