Blazing Saddles


By Judith Stafford

We buy bikes from vide greniers and are the proud possessors of a stable of mounts with names like El Paso, Champion du Monde and (with just a bit too much information) Lady Anatomie.

They get us from A to B just fine. They don’t get us to C,D,E,F or G though, because they are in varying states of rusting dilapidation.

One makes a noise like a braying mule when you apply the brakes. One doesn’t make any noise at all because the brakes don’t work and you have to hurl yourself off when you want to stop anywhere.

One requires a bolt upright posture, another calls for a bent double squat, knees banging chin when the pedal reaches its zenith.

One has a seat with the comfort of gnarled granite, two have gears that self-select randomly, making for an exciting and unpredictable journey.

However there is a band of banditos in these here parts, intrepid and adventurous. They traverse mountains, cross valleys and vineyards, speed over dirt lanes and towpaths for miles, spitting gravel in their wake. They are badass!

They are not Lycra clad Tour de France fanatics. Nor are they athletes of the highest levels of super fitness – no offence.

How then, do they achieve these feats of daring and endurance?

Electric motors that’s how.

And one day we were invited to join their gang. So there we were being driven up and around alpine curves, through unfamiliar mountain villages with slate-tiled walls, a trailer on the back of the car bearing a selection of muscular steeds strapped firm and straining at the leash.

At our destination we were given a lesson on batteries and knobs, then advised to have a “practice round the car park”.

Off we wobbled like kids on Xmas morning – except instead of stabilisers there was a bloody great engine bolted to the frame.

The other desperados busied themselves unfastening vélos and attaching panniers, with one wary eye on these two clueless, wavering idiots to whom they’d just offered, probably with regret, to lend their hugely expensive electric bikes.

The time came – wagons roll! – and away we zoomed with no more noise than a swarm of persistent mosquitos.

We were following an old train track that had been turned into a cycle path, complete with tunnels and decommissioned railway stations.

We had the hang of it now and whizzed past saddo regular riders with contraptions most probably bought from vide greniers. Eat dust suckers!

Through a long, dark, echoing tunnel we whooped and hollered and rang our bells like 7 year old schoolboys. Ghostly green strips of light flashed past and we shot towards a hole of infinite blackness. At one point I got up to Warp Factor 4. But mainly felt comfy at number 2 on the dial. It’s important to know one’s limitations.

Others, however, sadly didn’t and so Mr Rigsby ended up head first in a bed of nettles due to a moment of cockiness with his Hyperspace button.

We stopped halfway for a picnic. Baguettes, cheese, quiche, crisps and chocolate cake flew around in a carb crazed frenzy. Well, we may have been doing “assisted” riding, but our legs were still going round, so that must count for something in the calorie guzzling stakes – we were starving.

Off again! Past cows, ponies, sunflower meadows, saw mills and streams we galloped. We spotted kiwi bushes, smelt apple mint, mused over mysterious dolmens.

Too soon it was over. Time to hang up the saddle. The bikes were hitched to their mobile stable and we headed back down to the nearest saloon for a well deserved shot of red eye. Well, a nice chilled rosé and some beers.

So OK, you win pardner. We’re smitten as you said we would be. When we get lucky on the lottery we’ll mosey on over to the nearest electric bike shop and git us a pair.

In the meantime though it’s back to my Lady Anatomie. You could liken it to swapping from the Lone Ranger’s sinewy stallion to that old nag that used to pull Steptoe’s cart.

Never mind. Off we trot.

Hi Ho Silver and Away!!!

Chez Mwah ? is out now on Amazon.