Over the years we’ve seen many cyclist cruising the Loire Valley’s country roads. On flat terrain, they usually move in large groups at a steady pace. On hilly roads, the groups automatically split up in small ones, with the most ardent and trained cyclists leading the way. In the worst case scenario the weakest riders are stumbling along, on foot pushing their bikes uphill, some two or three kilometres behind the leaders. I always feel sorry for these poor souls, as you can tell that they are not really used to riding a bike and have been talked into this ordeal by their weathered friends.
I think it is very unwise to start out on such a journey if you’re not used to cycling or of if you’re lacking the necessary physical training. Over the years, we’ve only made one attempt to cycle along a river path. It was in 2006 after visiting the Château de Nitray, located in Saint Martin-Le-Beau halfway between Amboise and Chenonceau. I had read on the castle’s website that the owners provided free bikes to visitors who, at the end of the tour and wine tasting, felt like peddling along the banks of the nearby Cher River.
2006: 'Pigeonnier' at the Château de Nitray.
Three dummies ... or just two?
Three dummies ... or just two?
Arriving at the Château, we were greeted by a young student who had been hired to collect the entrance fee and to hand over a leaflet explaining the history and main features of the castle. We were informed that the tour didn’t include a visit of the interior, but that we were free to explore the chapel and the ‘pigeonnier’ (round building housing the dove tills). As the next wine tasting session, which was to be hosted by the lord of the castle himself, was scheduled at four o’clock, we had ample time to have a look around. We were also invited to use the bikes that were stalled in the courtyard … which we did or at least tried!
Not being an outdoor person, I hadn’t ridden a bike in 30 years or so and I immediately felt ill at ease. All the available bikes were of the mountainbike type, with the handlebars pointing downwards. The saddle was hard and uncomfortable. But you know what they say: “You never forget how to ride a bike.” I therefore mustered all courage and set out on my heroic journey. My friend rode ahead of me. With the handlebars pointing downwards, I had the funny feeling of sitting with my nose on the front wheel.
After ten minutes I had enough of it. I felt too uneasy to really enjoy the landscape. In fact, I hardly saw it as the dust road was rather bumpy and I kept looking downwards, trying to avoid the many potholes. I stopped and called my friend who was already well ahead of me, further down the road. He turned round, worried.
When I told him that I was too insecure to continue and that I was afraid I would fall, he agreed that we’d walk back to the castle. We were just in time for the wine tasting. This somewhat steadied my nerves and quickly made me forget about my wobbly cycling adventure.
Do you feel like taking a bike ride along the Cher River? Just drop in at the Château de Nitray as it has lots to offer: culture, wine and sports!