A couple of years ago, my very good friend, Lesley, suggested that instead of attempting our normal weekly game of squash, we should go for a bike ride. I turned up at her house with my rickety ancient domestic bicycle (with a basket on the front) to be greeted by a vision in Lycra holding a relatively sleek hybrid beast.
We had fun and I resolved to call in the 2 year old promise of a new bicycle as a birthday present and before I could say 'toe clips' we had entered the London to Cambridge ride as part of my husband’s firm’s team. By this time I had roped my son, Luc, into the equipe too.
How is it that, in the space of a year, we have gone from considering a 65 mile cycle as a once in a year major event to grabbing the chance to cycle from home to the Loire? Cycling has definitely got right under our skin!
Lesley is very good at spotting a chance to combine a long cycle ride with family outings and jollies. So naturally, when her partner mentioned that he was planning on another Le Mans trip on his motorbike, her mind turned to “how can we work a cycle ride in with that?”
It was but a short hop from that thought to “I know – let’s cycle from home (in South Norfolk) and meet him there” - simple. So we made a few tentative first steps, bought some books and maps and began to think we might just be able to do it.
We are still at the planning stage and are beginning to grab every chance we can for a cycle – so I guess that counts as training. We have a few long trips in the calendar and have entered the Norfolk 100. We are also very keen to practise negotiating London traffic as we are country mice.
I have started writing a blog about our plans and (other random musings) if anyone is interested to see how we are getting on: http://threenotveryhairybikersgotofrance.blogspot.com/ 
Lucy Farrant 23/2/12
I hope it is obvious to anyone hearing or reading about our French trip that we are complete amateurs. We pootle about the countryside on our beloved but very unflash hybrid bikes, chatting away merrily, putting the world to rights and admiring the wildlife, gardens and other points of interest we pass.
Occasionally, one of us will have a bright idea like “Let’s enter the Cambridge to Norwich Ride in October” or “I really think we should do the Norfolk 100 this year.” When we have second thoughts about these hare-brained schemes we console ourselves with the thought that we need challenges because that is what makes life interesting.
I’m afraid to confess that we do all this without having much of a clue about how our bikes actually work. Lesley’s partner is a farmer but his real job is to be our emergency services. We have the very comfortable knowledge that if we have a mechanical mishap or overreach ourselves, 99% of the time he is but a ‘phone call away.
With all this in mind, an important component of the French challenge will be equipping ourselves with some technical knowledge and kit so that we can become more self reliant.
We have planned a trip to the Bike Show in Sandown with the explicit aim of sussing out gadgets and advice for incompetents. From our regular trips to our local bike shops and perusals of catalogues it is clear that we could spend the equivalent of the National Debt on indestructible tyres, 50 function multi-tools , mirrors that see round corners and chav navs that double as motivation coaches. I think we need to find a method of sorting products into categories ranging from "essential", through 'great but we need to win the lottery first” to “downright silly”.
For example, on our last bike shop visit we spotted a neat looking multi tool with a mere 15 functions. On closer inspection it became clear that the only one we could use with confidence was the bottle opener. It also weighed the same as a medium sized lump of kryptonite. We were not tempted to invest in that one.
Any constructive thoughts or comments on this topic will be gratefully received.
Lucy Farrant 27/3/2012