Leicestershire and Rutland
Cyclists' Touring Club

(founded 1897)


President's Page
Technical Topics
Challenge Rides
Charnwood Easy Riders
General Knowledge
South Leicestershire
Leicester Easy Riders
Councillor's Viewpoint
A Summer in France (part 16)

Cycle Chat Cover

President's Page

Ray Clay

We are now urgently looking for a new Cycle Chat editor. Ivy Allen took over the job from Ken Hoxley some years ago but has now relinquished the post. She has family commitments and her computer and broadband connection have given her problems for several months. However, our thanks must go to Ivy for all the work she has put in.

At our last committee meeting nobody came forward to volunteer as editor. However, we do have a fallback position, albeit temporary. Teamprint, who prints off our magazine has agreed to put the magazine together until we can find a new editor. I have said that I will act as postman to receive contributions pro tem. But, with all my other jobs, it would help me if an editor can be found asap. If you think you can help, please let me know. Thanks to all the contributors who have sent me articles. Although I’m not the editor, I’ve found it quite time consuming putting things in order. Apologies if I’ve left anything out.

I’m pleased to say that our events have been pretty well supported. It could be due to the extra publicity we have received. As usual, the committee would welcome new organisers and new blood on the committee. Perhaps at the AGM in November we could welcome new people onto the committee.

There are still a number of events planned for the rest of the year. You will find details elsewhere in Cycle Chat.


Challenge Rides – June 26th

by Peter Witting

In previous years we have had 33, 28, 32 and 19 riders: This year we had 61 riders! The reason for the increase was publicity in IPC’s “Cycling Active” magazine and website. Many of the events listed in Cycling Active were sportives and charity rides with entry fees of £25 and upwards. The comment they made about our ride was “With such a low entry cost (£3 or £1), what have you got to lose?” Well it worked for us! We had 34 entries from folk who were not members of any cycling club. We had only half that number (17) who were CTC members, and 10 who were from other cycling clubs.

There were 3 successful riders who completed the full 100 mile course; but 2 experienced local CTC members abandoned their attempts at the 100 after completing their 50 mile rides. The very hot conditions had led to dehydration and cramp. We had 28 riders complete the 50 miles, including 3 juniors. An additional 3 riders asked, after completing the 50 mile loop, whether they could ride the 25 mile loop to make a 75 mile event. I agreed it would be no problem, and they enjoyed the combination. The 25 mile event also proved popular with 27 riders, including 9 juniors. This was clearly an attraction for the non-club riders and juniors.


Technical Topics

by Peter Witting

Bikes at Risk

Those who receive the CTC’s weekly email newsletter, or subscribe to our Yahoo Group, will have already seen Chris Juden’s warning of steerer column failures. Chris, the CTC’s Technical Officer, warned of modern bikes with aluminium steerer columns putting riders at risk. The aluminium is not as strong as steel, yet the European Standard has not been updated to reflect the trend from steel to aluminium. The CTC investigated a member’s crash in 2009 when the bars separated from the steerer leading to injuries for the rider and a written-off bike. But this was not an isolated incident. I discovered a local rider who had visited his local bike shop with a steering problem. Luckily for him they stopped him riding home when they found cracks in the alloy steerer. Chris Juden warned that alloy steerers can fail due to stress, but carbon can also fail due to crushing. To be safe, stick to steel steerers (or titanium if you can find it). Otherwise check at intervals for signs of failure by removing the forks to inspect the column. And get it checked at the first sign of anything unusual affecting your steering.

Front Lamp Fixings

What have Minoura’s “Spacegrips”, Topeak’s “BarXtender” and M-Wave’s “Handlebar Organiser” got in common? They are all different names for the same thing! If your handlebars are already full of other things, how do you fit a front light, computer or heart-rate monitor? The answer is to fit one of the above. No doubt there are others. But they differ in weight, price, versatility and reliability, so no recommendations. The M-Wave was lightest at 2 Ozs./57 Gms., and cheapest at £10. But it seemed the least versatile and most flimsy. Perhaps best for computers and lamps fed by cable rather than heavy internal battery. For £13 you could get Minoura’s SG2 weighing 85 Gms, and claimed to be rock-solid. They also offer a bigger version, the SG1 at £15, and the articulated Swing-Grip at £17. The Topeak BarXtender cost £14 and weights a whopping 115 Gms. The advantage is it’s versatility: The crossbar can be rotated allowing the clamp to be fitted to the stem instead of the handlebars if required. And if, like me, you balk at this quarter-pounder lamp bracket, the clamp can be left fitted to the bars, while the other fittings can be removed using an allen-key to save weight when lights are not needed.

Topeak BarXtender

Unseasonal Clothing

Italy must be a wonderful place to spend the Winter. I’ve never been there, so how do I know? The Winter jerseys made by Italian firm Nalini seem indistinguishable from our UK Summer kit. Only the long sleeves and “Winter Wear” branding distinguish Nalini’s Winter jerseys from their short-sleeved Summer kit. The message seems to be don’t rely on their Winter cycling kit for use in the UK in winter, though OK for Spring or Autumn wear.


Leicester Easy Riders

with Jim Gerrard

On the 18th June, June Mills celebrated her 80th birthday. Congratulations from all of the Leicester Easy Riders. Here’s to another 10 years.

With one or two exceptions most rides have been completed albeit with reduced numbers due to holidays and individual trips etc.

In early May we enjoyed a week end in Cheshire just outside Knutsford even though our B & B appeared to be at the end of the Manchester airport runway. We managed to visit 5 locations on the BCQ lists including Sandbach, Daresbury, Great Budworth and Styal.

(If stuck for rest and refreshment look for the nearest golf course. Always open on Sundays and we have not been turned away yet although we have had some questioning looks).

Ian organised a good route for our car assisted trip in June which linked up the Tissington, Monsal and High Peak Trails with a bit of rough stuff between to link up.

Our visit corresponded with the Tissington well dressing festival which gave added interest.

The Monsal Trail tunnels are now fully open to all with low level lighting installed. This one however finishes on the A6, hence the rough stuff link.

David had a good trip with his son riding back to Leicester from Aberdeen having used the train to the start.

Ian, Norman and Jim successfully completed the Sea 2 Sea although Ian did well to finish with knee ligament and other problems subsequently diagnosed on his return.

We over came the start/finish transport dilemma by using ‘’ C2Chasslefree’’ (see website) which proved very good, - exactly what it say’s.



Lyn Dolphin

The last quarter has had its fair share of DA events, and the section has supported them all, either by riding or by the ever willing presence of Keith and Jean Lakin.

First came the 30 mile and freewheel event which turned out to be slightly different to normal. Jims route, as usual, was very pleasant through the lanes circling Market Bosworth. As a section we managed to display the story of the Tortoise and Hare. The riders went off fairly quickly and at Congerstone we had to wait for one of our own, so the rest disappeared up the hill to Twycross. When we arrived at the tea stop there was no-one else in sight. Thinking that they had all just carried on, we ordered tea, only to then be joined by everyone else who had all gone the wrong way! However it was the freewheel that took this event to the extreme. Three out of county riders had joined us, and were absolutely dedicated to winning this event, with long discussions over aero-dynamics, sitting positions and tyre pressure. Their dedication did however result in them taking the first three places, so perhaps we could all learn something (or maybe not!).

This event was quickly followed by the Back to Fuschia Ride, the Heart of England Rally, the Heart of the Shires Audax and the Challenge Rides.

In the midst of these was our Birthday Treasure Hunt. Unfortunately I had managed to pick the school half term so there were only 10 entrants, but it was still a very enjoyable event with Arthur Jones emerging as the winner. Keith and Jean helped me out here, for which I am very grateful and as Coalville Wheelers had allowed us to use their clubroom for free we managed to make a small profit for the club funds.

Outside of the DA events we have also had some very nice club runs.

Back at the end of May Martin B led a ride to Sewstern. Due to the distance Pete, Richard and I decided to do a slightly shorter route and were to meet Martin and Nick at Landyke Lane. Martin and Nick nearly missed breakfast due to two punctures on route, and at Sewstern, as we were minding our own business before heading back into a very strong headwind, what appeared to be half of the DA arrived – I think it may have been something to do with the beer festival taking place.

At the beginning of July, on a beautiful sunny day, Pete, Richard and I again took an easier option and met Martin B, Martin A and Keith at Ambergate. After a very long tea stop we climbed over the bank to Wirksworth. After lunch I convinced everyone that the view from Alport Heights would be lovely. Once at the top, and the complaints had stopped flowing, everyone agreed that indeed the views were stunning.

The following week was Pete’s car assisted ride to Everdon. We once again called into the cafe on the barge at Braunston marina, and after fighting the thunder flies arrived at the pub just in time for the British Grand Prix to start, much to Pete’s delight. I did say that the second half of the route was flatter, but I’m not sure that Keith, Joe and Richard believed me and we were all grateful to see the church offering teas at Crick on the return leg.

With the year passing so quickly the next quarter will see Autumn progressing before we start the chilly wintry months, so let’s hope for beautiful Autumn Sundays.


Charnwood Easy Riders

with Brenda Ottey

Some of the rides during the spring were down on numbers due to members having other commitments but the rides still went ahead. We all enjoyed our ride to Hinckley. We had coffee with Soo’s sister who provided excellent scones and cakes. We sat in her garden in glorious sunshine before setting off over a long forgotten route over Burbage Common.

Soo, Dave and I had a great weekend at the York Rally. Soo led us out on a ride out of the back of the racecourse along the cycle tracks and on to Boston Spa. We cycled all day in bright sunshine and returned to enjoy sitting outside watching cyclists and their families enjoying the evening playing cricket and football and using their bikes in safety on the field.

On Sunday we rode out to Castle Howard. The ride down to the estate was wonderful and very impressive. We spent the afternoon walking in the grounds before retracing our tracks to a very different rally ground as most people had headed home early. We had decided to stay an extra night. Pearl and Sue had headed off for their annual tour, Soo having cycled a long distance ride in Scotland at the end of May.

Howard and Betty are taking grandson Paul to the Birthday Rides in a few weeks time.

Soo led us on a ride to Nottingham through Gotham and across the busy A453 to Barton in Fabis, over some fields and on to the cycle tracks to Wilford where we had lunch at the Ferry Boat pub. After leaving the pub we went over a cyclists only bridge and along the cycle track to the back of the park. Then cycled along the river side on to Trent Lock for coffee. We then made our way home.

Our Wednesday rides are still ongoing and we are sometimes joined by two ladies from Ashby. They don’t always go the whole distance of the ride but it’s nice to see new faces.


South Leicestershire Report

from Tony Davis

Roy Dayman

I was devastated to hear that Roy Dayman passed away in hospital in Chambery on 4th August following an accident while felling a tree in the garden of Mark Tipping’s home in Salins les Thermes.

Roy was on an extended tour of Europe having arrived in Spain last month and ridden 1400 miles through the Pyrenees into France. I was “enjoying” a dull day at work a short while ago when I received a text telling me that Roy was enjoying a cool beer on the top of Mont Ventoux.

Maggi had gone out to join Mark, Gill, Roy and Bob in Salins les Therms for a short holiday.

I’m sure you will all join me in turning our thoughts to Maggi, Kate and Ian.

Croatia tour

Jayne and I have recently returned from a cycle camping holiday in Croatia. We flew from Stansted to Rijeka. Instead of packing our bikes in boxes or bags we wrapped them in cling film for the journey. This was a tip I’d picked up from another cycle tourist on the internet. It worked really well and it was easy to pick up a couple of rolls from a supermarket for the return trip.

Often when you arrive at a foreign airport the challenge is to get away from arrivals without ending up cycling on the hard shoulder of a motorway. Rijeka airport is about 20km from the city on the island of Krk. It handles a few flights a day and is in a rural setting. One of our fellow passengers looked at our bikes and said “you do realise there isn’t a flat square inch in Croatia”.

View Larger Map

We arrived late afternoon and started our trip by rolling about 2km downhill to a campsite. The campsite was on the sea front and very peaceful but had a view across the bay to the industrial city of Rijeka. After a quick trip to the “hole in the wall” for some of the local currency, kuna, we were able to relax over a beer and a meal in the restaurant on the site.

Next morning we followed a delightful narrow road along the seafront to the next village, Omisalj, which unfortunately sat on top of a headland with a 12% climb up from the sea. The sea was unbelievably clear and a stunning blue-green. We picked up breakfast from the local bakery then headed south down the island to catch the ferry from Valbinska to the island of Rab.

On this ferry we met three other cycle tourists Richard from New Zealand, his girlfriend Julia from Germany and Jan, a Dutch cyclist that they had met along the way. Richard and Jilia were riding from her home in Hamburg to his home near Rotoroa. We crossed the island of Rab and caught another ferry onto the mainland. Here we had a steep climb up to the main road. We were running short of water and stopped at a petrol station for a drink and an ice cream. As we headed south to the next ferry we could see a large black cloud heading our way. A few minutes later the skies opened and the thunder cracked around us. Jayne and I huddle in our waterproofs against a dry stone wall. The rain lasted about 15 minutes and by the time we had covered the next few kilometres to catch the ferry out to Pag the roads were almost dry. This was the only rain we saw for the whole holiday.

Richard and co were also on this ferry and had stopped at the same petrol station for refreshments. We dropped them again on the steep climb from the ferry as we were less heavily loaded. The campsite at Novalia was marked on the Croatia Camping Union site as a naturist camp site, which made us a little apprehensive. But when we arrived we found a large campsite setting in rolling woodland with a separate designated naturist area. A combination of late arrival, very hot weather and a campsite with great facilities meant we didn’t set off until lunch time the next day.

When we moved on we rode down the length of Pag and over the bridge onto the mainland. That night we camped on a site near Razanac which was only just opening up for the season. We pointed out that we were only stopping for one night but the young man on reception insisted we should pay on departure. Next morning we arrived at the reception about 2 minutes after the posted opening time. After a few minutes with no sign of the staff I used my mobile to phone the number with my fingers crossed that the person at the end of the line could speak English. The receptionist apologised and ten minutes later he arrived to return our passports and take our money.

The climb from the campsite warmed us up and we were only half an hour late setting off. Later in the day we spent a couple of hours wandering round the city of Zadar which had some beautiful architecture ranging from the Roman period onwards. The streets in the old part of the city were paved with large stone slabs which were polished smooth by the passage of thousands of pairs of feet. Just inside the city wall the plaster on some of the buildings was still pock marked with holes made by small arms fire from the war. The moorings of the harbour were full of yachts from all over the world including some which looked like floating palaces. We were also able to visit the office of the Jadrolinija ferry company to check on ferry timetables so that we could ensure that we got back to the airport in time for the return flight. We were there at the end of June and the full summer timetable didn’t start until 1 July. This meant that our sketchy plan to visit Split or Dubrovnik was not practical.

We explored the commercial port area of Zadar to make sure that we knew where to embark for our next ferry crossing before heading south down the coast road. We passed lots of stalls at the side of the road where people were selling surplus garden produce. We stopped to buy tomatoes and cherries. The next camping stop was in part of a very popular tourist area called Pakostane. We had a day out with no load to ride around the edge of the Vransko Jezero national park. We passed through a village where there were gardens with established trees and shrubs but only piles of rubble where the houses used to be. This area had clearly been hit hard during what they called the Homeland War. We climbed to the top of hill which gave a fantastic view over Jezero lake. The path to the viewpoint was through what the French call maquis. The path was bordered with notices giving a description of the plants many of which were familiar as herbs at home.

Our next ferry crossing was from Zadar to Mali Losinj on the island of Losinj. This was another beautiful harbour town with a campsite in the pinewoods overlooking a small bay. We stayed two nights and had a day being proper tourists wandering around the souvenir shops and sitting on the beach.

The island of Losinj is long and narrow with hills running down the centre. At times when the road was on high ground you could see the sea on both sides of the island. We crossed the very short bridge between Losinj onto the island of Cres. The bridge was the start of a long climb up onto the spine of the island. The day ended with a long descent to the town of Cres which was on the greener, west side of the island. Cres was a lovely lively town and the evening was animated by a cherry festival. It was the height of the cherry season and the festival celebrated with dancing, music and stalls selling pancakes, cakes and a myriad of other culinary delights made with cherries.

The ferry for our last trip from Merag to Valbinska back on Krk left from the east of the island. This meant a climb from sea level to about 500m then dropping all the way back to sea level in just 12k. We worked up a thirst on the steep climb from the ferry and slipped off the main road into the village of Skrbcici in search of a shop. We each had a coke but it was clear that the shop doubled up as the village bar, not inside but out. There was a bench against the outside of the building and a bottle opener hung from a piece of string on the wall. It was interesting to just sit and watch the world go by.

Our last night was spent at Njivice leaving us with a short cycle to the airport the next day.

The campsites we stayed at all had facilities far better than most in the UK. The cars and camper vans had registration plates representing just about every European nation. The guide books I read had warned us not to expect anyone in Croatia to speak English but we found that with tourists from so many nations represented English was the lingua franca which everyone dropped back to when struggling to communicate. The road surfaces were generally far better than home. Croatian food was a combination of Italian and eastern european, with lots of pasta, pizza, sausages and meatballs. The weather was so hot that most days we were up early and checking out of the campsites as reception opened to try to avoid riding in the afternoons. Trying to unravel the mysteries of the Jadrolinija ferry timetable on the internet had defeated me which had left us with an optimistic view of how much ground we could cover in our 10 days on the Croatian coast and islands. The peak season doesn’t start until 1 July but it was hot enough in June to have us seeking out the shade. If we visit Croatia again we’ll probably try to fly further south to Split or Dubrovnik so that we can explore an area we missed this time around.

Sunday runs

Our group still meets regularly for Sunday rides with widely varying numbers each week. Due to a succession of family events, holidays and audax rides I have only managed to get out on one Sunday ride since Easter. All the other members have similarly busy lives with Neil Dixon competing in open time trials, Gill Stocks scuba diving and Gill Lord’s excursions in the camper van to the New Forest, Suffolk and as I write, France. Despite the fact that we don’t all manage a regular turn out on Sundays we still keep in touch so that once the summer rush is over we can return to regular social riding.

Heart of the Shires Audax

The headquarters for this year’s Heart of the Shires Audax rides had to be moved at short notice. I found an alternative location at Lutterworth Rugby Football Club. The huge car park gave this venue a significant one advantage over previous locations. Though it did mean I had to re-plan the route. Given the proliferation of audax rides across the country I think we are lucky to have a loyal following for our events. We usually get a group from the Chester and North Wales CTC on the hunt for DATC points on the 200k and good support from our local clubs, the Hinckley CRC and Leicester Forest. This year the Forest contingent surprised me by all entering the 200.

On the day the weather was good to the riders which were reflected in some brisk finishing times. We had 35 finishers on the 200 and 47 on the 100. This was 18 riders more than last year. Thanks are due to the helpers on the day, Keith and Jean Lakin, Maggi Dayman, Gill Stocks, Gill Lord, Shane Blower and Jayne Davis

Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP)

Every four years the Audax Club de Paris runs the flagship audax event in the world, the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200k audax. There are other 1200km rides and there are even some longer rides such as London-Edinburgh-London but Paris-Brest-Paris dwarves the others in number of entrants and atmosphere. The ride is 1225km and riders have a choice of maximum time limits from 80 hours up to 90 hours. The first time I rode this event my aim was to survive to the finish, last time I was after a brisk time but this year I just aim to enjoy every minute.



- By Dave Binks Continuing the story.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15

The story so far:
Dave has taken a job in France, working as an assistant for a UK based holiday company (Susi Madron’s “Cycling for Softies”) in Angouleme, near Cognac. His duties are to act as local mechanic and representative to ensure the holidaymakers have a good time as they cycle between the top class hotels in the area. He has settled into his accommodation and is now involved with both his job and the local cycling scene. The story continues…..

Wednesday August 15

My readers with a religious education will know that this day is Assumption Day. It’s also a Bank Holiday in France, so almost everything shuts for the day.

I had remembered to tell my holidaymakers last night, so that they could order a takeaway lunch from the hotel if they wished, and the first thing I did today was to remind them again. My new arrivals, who had come in late last night from Ireland, came along to the workshop and we spent an hour or so on puncture demos and marking routes etc. I wanted to go out with the club as usual in the afternoon so carried on for a while after they had gone, preparing some of the smaller bikes. A mother and young child were due to arrive shortly and I wasn’t sure what size the little one would need, so made sure there was one of each small size ready.

Just for a change, I was at the cycle club’s meeting place good and early, so was not surprised to see no-one else there at first. However, the appointed time came and went and still nobody arrived, so the clubrun must have been yet another casualty of the Bank Holiday shut down. Either that or they had become fed up with me and changed the meeting place without telling me. But I think it was the former.

It was very warm and humid, and in fact the forecast was for it to be raining, so I wasn’t complaining as I set off for a little ride on my own. My two Irish visitors had expressed an interest in one of my suggested rides southwards to Blanzac, so I thought I would go in that general direction to see if I bumped into them. The normally quiet roads were almost totally deserted as I meandered around on my way south, so the Bank Holiday was even keeping traffic down!

I ended up in Blanzac and was pleased to see the couple just leaving the English owned café. I was pleased for three reasons; they hadn’t got lost; they had found the café open; and I could have a drink in the café. In my notes for the route they were following I had said as an optional extra to go on another 2-3kms to see a particularly interesting and very ancient small chapel, but only if access to the inside was possible as the inside was the interesting bit, but the chapel is normally kept locked. They had mentioned this to the bar owner who had made a telephone call and found out the chapel would be open very soon, so off they went to have a look, leaving me in the bar with a cold drink chatting to the owner. I had only once been inside the chapel myself, so without anything better to do, followed on up there myself. I arrived at the same time as the guide was unlocking the door, and the three of us were given a guided talk in English by a very knowledgeable gentleman who explained the background to the Knights Templar, and how this chapel was connected to them. He also explained the meaning of the 12thC murals adorning the walls inside. The small charge to get in was well worth it and I was glad I had gone.

After the visit I left the couple to it and carried on alone as they were too slow for me and I was too fast for them, and in any case they didn’t want me around spoiling their day. As I knew the small museum where they were next headed might also be a casualty of the Bank Holiday closures, and to get to it was a detour, I went on to check it out. There would be no point in them doing the extra distance if it was closed, but it was open, so I rode back along their route until we met each other again and I told them they would not be wasting their time should they choose to go. I then carried on again, enjoying the deserted roads, but not the humidity or the pretty strong wind that had now got up and was at times blowing straight into my face.

Later that evening, the heavens opened for a few minutes and the threatened rain arrived with a vengeance but by the time bedtime came it had almost stopped again, and was still warm.

48 miles

Thursday August 16

The forecast for today was not very good and I had to await the departure of my two latest guests so that I could store their luggage in the workshop whilst they were away, so didn’t rush. I also found out the size of the young lad due to arrive the next day, so made sure his bike was ready and did one or two other little jobs before doing a little shopping.

I got rained on enough to make me put on a waterproof when coming home, but not enough to get me properly wet before lunch so the forecast was semi correct. I have noticed that the weather in this area is often different to that forecast generally and today seemed to help prove the point. After eating I couldn’t make my mind up what to do, and just ended up riding into Angouleme for a few hours to have a poke around and take some photos.

The day had brightened, but was distinctly cool as soon as the sun went in, and the wind was quite strong. I sat down at a pavement café to order a “coffee crème” (white coffee) but it took ages to arrive and I was steeling myself to tell them to forget it, when it arrived in the nick of time. It was however worth it when it did come as there was plenty of hot milk with it and I really enjoyed it.

As I made my evening meal later on I thought that unless it was bad first thing in the morning, I would get up and go out for a decent ride, but with the proviso that I must be back by 5.30pm at the latest as the new guests (mum and son) were due at 6pm.

26 miles

Friday August 17

I got up and checked the weather was OK and immediately put my biking kit on as I was going to go out for a ride and get my “free” dinner somewhere. With the need to get back and welcome some incoming guests for 6pm this restricted my choice, and in the end I opted for la Rochefoucauld, with its massive but pretty Chateau. There was one of Susi’s hotels in the town, so that suited me fine.

I set off just before 10am but it was decidedly cool and I pulled a vest on underneath my short sleeved top, not removing it until I had done about 15 miles and both I and the day had warmed up.

My route took me at first along the same roads I had used when travelling out to watch the Tour de France recently. I had noticed on that previous ride a large tree that was in the middle of the road, surrounded by a small grassed area and a traffic sign indicating to keep right when passing from either direction, thus creating in effect, an island in the middle of the road. This used to be not that uncommon, but is now quite rare both in France and the UK, presumably in the interests of road safety where nothing must be allowed to endanger the driver who cannot be bothered to look where he is going, so I stopped and took some photos.

I was well underway on my journey when what I thought would be straight roads through one of the forests turned out to be just tracks, without a tarmac surface, so I had to retrace a few miles – always an annoying thing to have to do and even worse on a bike when you have sweated your way up there in the first place.

I began to be aware of the sky, which had turned from full sun to mostly, then all, thick dark cloud. I have the Englishman’s paranoid instinct for not trusting the weather and had taken the precaution of putting a waterproof top in my seat pack and my fears were well founded when I had to pull it on as a sharp shower finally arrived. I had taken my rather bulky SLR camera, which just sits on my back when I ride, but this leaves it exposed to the rain. Unfortunately, it was too big to go in my seat pack, even when the cape had been removed, and was too big to go under my cape, but I got over the problem by removing the lens and putting that in the seat pack, and just having the camera body (which lies fairly flat) under the cape. After covering a short distance like that, the rain came on heavier and I took shelter under some trees whilst it blew over.

The final few miles into the small town of la Rochefoucauld were done in warm sunshine and I made my way straight to the hotel restaurant. The place was named “La Vieille Auberge” (The Old Inn) and it was indeed old, complete with oak beams and creaking wooden floors. Susi’s notes said the restaurant was always full, but not today it wasn’t, as less than a quarter of the tables were occupied. The food was good, but the otherwise attractive young waitress can’t have been listening when she had been told to smile at customers!

I particularly wanted to go into the very large Chateau that dominates the town and the charge of 8€ (approx. £5) was within my budget and so in I went. It was 8€ well spent. Although the family still live in half of the Chateau, this still leaves more than enough to look at in the other half, and I spent a very interesting hour or two wandering through the rooms and taking photos. One charming feature was one room where there were period costumes hanging up that you could wear over your own clothes and then go strolling around the house pretending you were back in the days of old, and this was at no additional cost. I saw some youngsters, but no adults brave enough to try. I had to leave before the Chateau’s library was opened, which was a shame as it’s supposed to be quite some collection.

My ride back was uneventful and I got back exactly as planned at 5pm, leaving me an hour to shower, change and be ready for my arrivals. They (mum and 10 year old son) were due at 6pm, but I like to be waiting and so at 5.50pm sat down outside the hotel, in the sun with a book. At 7pm I gave up and went inside to ask the staff to ring me when they arrived, only to be told they had already rung to say they were delayed 2 hours, but no-one had told me! At 8pm I returned, but it was still 8.50pm before they finally got in, all flustered and apologetic. Traffic in Bordeaux, where the plane had landed, was bad and then the train to Angouleme was late.

Fortunately the restaurant was still open and they went straight in after agreeing what time to meet me in the morning.

64 miles

Saturday August 18

My new arrivals were up and raring to go at 9am, and it didn’t take long to get them both set up. I didn’t bother with the puncture demo as neither mum nor young son would have been able to do it anyway, and in just the three days they would be with me and the small distances they would cover, the chances of them having a problem were tiny. I would also only be a short distance away anyway, apart from later that day, so we agreed we would take the gamble. The Chocolate Factory was their target for today and off they went.

My latest booking list came in the post, showing yet again no bookings, this time for a week in September.

A large parcel was waiting outside the workshop and this contained forty new tyres and with each tyre was a “free” tube. However, on inspection the tyres were not what I had expected but would do, but the tubes were fatter than I thought would fit properly, but I left them for another day.

I went to the bank and then called in to buy some meat at the butcher’s shop run by Richard and Joelle of the cycling club. Having not seen me on the last two rides, they thought I had returned home until I explained I had to work on the Sunday, and that meant I then didn’t get the message about the Wednesday afternoon ride being in the morning as it was a Bank Holiday.

The day was good, so I kept my appointment to view a potential B&B south of Barbezieux, but was not impressed with it despite it being an interesting house. The English couple running it were in their early 60’s and pleasant, but the house and facilities still needed quite a lot to be done to bring it up to scratch, and with the lady being in a wheelchair much of the time suffering from multiple sclerosis, I doubted they would be ready for at least a year. I simply told them the truth - that it was Susi’s business and her decision, I would simply tell her what I saw and show her the photos I was allowed to take. I didn’t tell them that I would be suggesting it wasn’t up to Susi’s very high standards.

I felt tired again, so took it easy on the way home, even stopping in Barbezieux for a soft drink and a cake. Chatting to mum and son later confirmed they had got to the chocolate factory OK and also found time to do some fishing in the hotel lake, catching twenty fish between them, all of which were immediately put back as instructed. It was no surprise they had caught that number as the fish were almost tame and as far as I know, no-one had fished there, for this season at least.

60 miles

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Views expressed in letters, articles or editorial are not necessarily those of the CTC or the Leicestershire & Rutland DA.


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