Shared Pleasure on Cycling Holidays



Riding a bicycle is an outwardly selfish pursuit, but I’m finally getting better at sharing my passion for it. I freely give advice when friends ask about bikes to buy for their kids. I’m quick to offer tips to adventurers heading off on long cycle tours. I’m happy to provide encouragement to communities to keep cycling.

By Rob Penn

Thursday 7th June 2018

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The most obvious way I’ve come to share my love of bicycles though, is via guiding. In its simplest form, this entails taking my 12-year old son out for a ride. Together we’ve followed several long distance cycle routes in the UK. Guiding kids combines several roles: safety monitor (or the ‘Fun Police’ as my son calls me), mechanic, parent, party entertainer, map reader, nutritionist and directeur sportif. It can be exhausting, but I love it. At some stage in the next few years, he’ll want to head off on his own and I’ll miss it terribly.

I also guide many road cycling tours for Bikecation. A few summers past, I lead the corporate cycling Mont Ventoux tour up Mont Ventoux and across the perfumed hills of Provence to Nice. Some of the group had never ridden road bikes seriously before. None of them had scaled a mythical mountain like Ventoux, a climb that ‘exacts an unjust tribute of suffering,’ according to French philosopher and cyclist, Roland Barthes. The night before, the unease among the debutants was as sticky as the tarte tatin we ate in a small hotel at the foot of the mountain. Everyone got up Ventoux, but I was more heartened by the way that, after four days of riding, people in the group were looking out for each other. They were almost guiding themselves.

Part of the satisfaction of guiding is seeing roads I know well through fresh eyes. This pleasure is most acute leading people around the Brecon Beacons where I live. I have organised a couple of training weekends and revel equally in the clients’ expressions of horror, climbing up Iron Mountain on to the open moorland above Blaenavon, and delight, descending on the serpentine, singletrack road through the beautiful Llanthony Valley.

In autumn last year, two friends from New York came to stay. On the day the heavens decided to demonstrate the full arsenal of Welsh precipitation, we rode 80 miles over the Brecon Beacons. Crossing the mountain road at Pen Rhiw-ddu, during a squall of such ferocity we could barely see the road ahead, I looked into their faces and saw deep joy, a joy that first drew me to live and ride here ten years ago, a joy that reminded me of Virginia Woolf’s words: ‘For pleasure has no relish unless we share it.’

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