Last week I set off for a quick European getaway by hopping on the bike and riding to France for the first time. I say hopping on the bike like I was the one driving. I wasn’t. I am still very much in the “can only hand a 125cc and get too nervous to do my bike test” phase of my biking journey. But what I did do, is sit on the back singing Spice Girls over the intercom with the occasional pip of childish glee thrown in every time we rode past a dog I wanted to pet or saw a flamingo. Because it turns out I get VERY happy when I see those.
You can find the stops I took along the way in other posts, but for now I thought I’d tell you about the top things I learnt when riding across France for the first time, because riding across a country when the longest you’ve spent on a bike beforehand is 20 minutes is… Well, it’s a learning curve! So here goes.
1) Being a passenger on a bike (with a back rest!) cruising along the French countryside for hours in 30’c heat is the most relaxing thing ever and you will want to fall asleep a few times.
2) You will fall asleep.
Not on the bike but approximately 30 seconds after stepping off the bike.
That lump of human you see above? The one blending into the grass with a helmet sticking out?
That’s me. Fully geared up and passed the eff out.
3) Falling asleep is not good.
Sugar is veryyy good.
And very helpful.
4) Riding to France for the first time fuelled solely on sugar, is not good.
Especially if that sugar comes in the form of Coffee CaraFrappeWhateverTheyreCalleds, because you will be awake for ten minutes and then point two will happen. Point two is not advisable.
5) 30’c is hot.
30’c heat in a bike clobber is hell.
6) Gloves with built-in linings on a hot day are the devil’s work.
Get yourself a single layered glove and save yourself the emotional breakdown which happens after the third toll-booth you have had to take your glove off for and now can’t get back on.
7) I ignored every piece of advice my mum ever gave me about not taking sweets from strangers. On day one I took jellybeans (cheers Gav!) from a stranger on the Channel Tunnel and on day two, I was invited by a group of non-murdery looking French gentleman, to indulge in their sausage, cheese and wine picnic. FYI – That’s not a euphemism. There was legit sausage, cheese and wine. It was amazing and I didn’t get stabbed which was even more amazing. Ah travel <3
8) Riding through a hailstorm is a -100 experience. Especially when you see it coming, but you can’t get off the road in time. The BMW GS did perfectly, but my legs? I had a few small bruises as a result of getting pelted by hailstones!
9) If you have long hair the tangle teaser is your best friend.
I lost five hairbands during this trip which meant that after a day of riding, my hair was knot looking good. But this brush is gentle, and can tackle the knots without scalping you and making you bald in the process.
10) It is an unwritten rule that all bike riders must acknowledge other bike riders.
For England the secret code is a subtle hand raise with the left hand.
For France the secret code is a subtle stick out of the right leg.
It’s weird, it’s cute and it’s peculiar how a little wave or leg lift can brighten your day.
There’s just not the same comradery with cars!