We’ve had our first puncture – after just 360 kilometres. And we’ve been on the receiving end of two small acts of kindness that cheered us on an otherwise cold, bleak and wet day here in Brittany.
Judy was the first to voice the concerns I’d been keeping to myself for a couple of minutes. “Have we got a flat tyre,” she asked just a few kilometres into our riding day. We pulled over and could see the rear tyre deflating under the weight of the load on the rear carrier.
It was time to show my basic bike skills. We removed the panniers, lifted the rear of the tandem off the ground and I eased the wheel out (an easy job with the Rohloff hub instead of the sprockets and cog wheels of a derailleur). We found the hole in the inner tube, and while I applied a patch Judy discovered three thorns in the tyre and a tiny piece of glass – the culprit.
As we prepared to fit the inner tube and tyre back onto the wheel, a car came off the nearby roundabout and the driver pulled up on the other side of the road. Ignoring a cold shower of rain, he insisted on taking over, and I was happy to let him. It was obvious he was practised at bike repairs. Within what seemed like seconds he had the tube and tyre back in place and even insisted on pumping up the tyre.
His name was Philippe Marquis – which immediately prompted Judy to ask, “as in Marquis de Sade?” He laughed and said that whenever he explained his name like that, people knew how to spell it.
|Friendly neighbour alongside our campsite at a rural gite near Liffre
It turned out he too, had a Rohloff equipped bike and loved the benefits of its in-hub gear system.
Despite the rain and our protestations, he stood around until we had the wheel safely back in the frame. He tweaked the gear change cables and took a photo of us on his cellphone (“so I can tell my wife why I’m late,” he said) and was gone. Phillipe, thank you. And for your advice about tyres – we have our doubts about whether the current ones are tough enough for the job. If they’re not, we’ll be hunting for those Schwalbe Marathons.
We set off again and by now the rain had really set in – it was dancing off the cobblestones as we rode up the hill into the town of Chateaugiron. It was early Friday afternoon, but the place was almost deserted as people stayed indoors to avoid the weather. Eventually we spotted a small but rather smart restaurant and Judy in her dripping wet cycle jacket pushed open the door to ask if they would serve us simply coffee – not a meal.
|And friendly restaurant in Chateaugiron
Outside it was still raining, and we gave up on the idea of more cycling even though we had only travelled 25 kilometres. The campground was pretty but with no sign of life, cold and wet underfoot. We set up camp, and settled in warmed by what had been a couple of lovely encounters.
|We holed up at this lovely - but wet - campsite at Cheteaugiron for the best part of three days.
“The thing about the French is that they seem to have evolved more than us.” Judy
Mike: “This wine has an earthy taste.”
Judy: “Yes, you can taste it on the end of your tongue”.
Mike: “Which end?”
|Mike puts his trust in Judy and her nail scissors.