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 Reading Upperintermediate Text 9

Cycling in France, the easy way

As the professionals in the Tour de France struggle through the Pyrénées, Adam Ruck opts for a more leisurely route.

Now that this year's Tour de France is nearly done (and, let's hope, nearly won), perhaps we can slow down and smell the flowers as we pedal through France.

A tour by bicycle does not have to be a competition or an endurance test. Mountains are not compulsory, any more than technical clothing or gizmo-loaded bikes that cost thousands of pounds. Simplicity is the essential pleasure of cycling, and it does not have to hurt.

Does the case need to be made for France as the perfect country for a touring holiday? The home of la petite reine offers every variety of treat - scenic, historic and gastronomic — on a manageable scale.

Yes, there are a few areas — mainly in the north-east - where we might like to fast-forward; but south of the Loire rural France delivers rarely a dull hour in the saddle. Cycling is the growth sector in rural tourism. Hotels great and small have bikes in the garage to lend or rent, and smart restaurants no longer slam the door in our face. Even wine producers pop their corks for us with a smile, having worked out that we may have our cars at the hotel down the road and come back to fill our boots if we like what we taste.

At the end of the day, the greatest pleasure is on the table. Dinner comes with a sense of entitlement and a decent bottle — be it réserve du patron or a grand cru classé - bought with euros not spent on petrol. French food never tasted so good, and after a week on the road you will have lost weight.

Try France on two wheels, self-propelled. It is not the only way to travel, but it is a good way forward. Here are three suggestions of areas to explore, with itineraries - hotel prices are guides, per person based on half board.

Cycling tips

Don’t carry anything on your back.
My solution to the problem of valuables is shorts with zip pockets.
Keep your mouth shut and always wear sunglasses.
Take a spare inner tube. It’s quicker to switch tubes by the roadside and repair a flat tyre later.
Don’t be too proud to get off and walk. It will be a welcome change for the leg muscles and backside.
And what’s the hurry, anyway?

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