I don’t own a bike, and to be honest just the thought of cycling in London gives me the heebie jeebies. But J and I often hire bicycles for a few hours when we’re on holiday. Some of our best times together have been spent ‘bagging’ chateaux by bike from our campsite in the Loire Valley…. taking a spin along the Dieppe seafront in the sunshine…. and exploring the magnificent Jardines de Turia, which madly fill a converted river bed which once flowed through Valencia.
So when I decided we’d spend a few days in Calpe in Spain earlier this year, bike hire was always a part of the plan. Vuelta Turistica emerged as the most conveniently located of several cycle hire shops in the town. Little did we know though that this was no ordinary cycle hire joint. Super lean and fit Patrick was more used to kitting out professional cyclists of the Tour de France variety than he was preparing the borderline unfit and her adolescent son for a day out on his carbon framed pro bikes. Nonetheless, with the utmost kindness and courtesy, this is what he did. He carefully fitted the bikes to us, tailored the pedals to our feet, adjusted our saddles. These were bicycles so light you could lift them with one finger. Even I could see they were truly beautiful objects.
“So where are you going?” he asked.
“The seafront I thought. You know, see how it goes”. I was thinking affectionately about Calpe’s several kilometres of wide, smooth promenade, her inland sea flats, home to wild birds, and its market just across the town.
“You might want to go to Benidorm. It’s about a 50 kilometres round trip. I think you’d enjoy it”. I actually gulped. He had no idea. He must have seen the doubt in my eyes.
“Or Moraira, the other way along the coast, maybe? It’s a pretty town”. Calpe is picturesque, but it’s surrounded by mountains. The roads out of town twist and climb steeply. I knew it was not the place for amateur cyclists.
There is something special though about being on holiday which allows one to dream the impossible dream. As we prepared to leave the shop, I confessed that I hadn’t brought shorts with me. Patrick didn’t hesitate. From his store out the back, he pulled a pair of brand new, size L, shiny stretchy highly padded blue cycling shorts. “Take these! No, I don’t need any money, please keep them”.
That afternoon, we cycled 22 extraordinary miles up and down steep mountain roads through the most magnificent scenery. I can’t describe how proud I was of us both…. for trying it, for doing it. Those bikes are amazing. And the shorts… Well, I frankly couldn’t have done it without them. That’s one holiday souvenir that I will be holding on to. Thank you Patrick.