I was lucky to be asked by Inntravel to cycle all the routes on our Grade 1-2 holiday, Canal du Midi
, this spring with my French-speaking colleague, Bénédicte Cordingley. Previously I’d only experienced our walking holidays at first hand so I admit to having been a little nervous about being in the saddle for a whole week!
As preparation for the trip, I took a closer look at the itinerary to see exactly what was in store and examined the helpful feedback we’d received from customers. Although there’s quite a bit of cycling on the flat beside canals, it didn’t escape my notice that many enthused about the ride from Homps to Minerve on day three – the most challenging of the week. Neither did I miss the fact that many were surprised by the stiff climb out of the Roman village of Montouliers towards the end of the ride from Homps to Cruzy the next day. Hmm…. as a regular cyclist of the traditional ‘pootling’ variety (as opposed to the Lycra and skinny tyres brigade) I decided I’d best opt for an e-bike, giving the excuse I needed to research this experience for our customers.
Well, this aspect of the trip – riding an ever-so-comfy e-bike – is what swung it for me from being a good, varied itinerary to a really enjoyable, good, varied itinerary because there was no stress about being able to manage the hills. I can honestly say that, having cycled most of my life, this was the first time I’ve actually enjoyed cycling uphill
. Even with an e-bike, you go uphill slower but you can admire the scenery as you sail up – it’s wonderful! Fortunately, we had a tail wind for much of our ride, but we soon realised the power-assist helped a great deal with any head winds we encountered, too. And what’s more, I was pleased to discover that using the power somehow ‘took the edge off’ the inevitable bumpiness of parts of the towpath to an extent – this I only discovered later in the week when I started to play with the bike a bit more.
And when I got tired towards the end of some rides, a little power at the simple push of a button felt like a helping hand on my back. Lazy? Cheating? But why not – I was ready for ‘home’ and my mind was already on a glass of sparkling wine on the hotel’s terrace.
Having had this experience in the south of France – where I discovered there’s much more to this holiday than canals and cycling – I would now definitely consider booking a week’s cycling trip (even Grade 2) whereas previously I’d been worried about whether I’d enjoy it enough as a holiday. I have my eye on another cycle in the south of France, but this time in Provence
– and I see e-bikes are included on this itinerary. Now, where’s my calendar…