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Parkinson's Pedaller Garth Cycles in Provence!

posted Aug 8, 2013, 10:35 PM by Dianne James   [ updated Aug 8, 2013, 10:57 PM ]
Garth Evans is a member of the Brisbane group of Parkinson's Pedallers.  He recently travelling to France with his daughter and her husband on a cycling holiday... and he has kindly written up a little bit about his wonderful experience in Provence...

I have found that cycling helps manage some of the challenges of living with Parkinson’s Disease. In October last year my daughter who lives in London suggested that I might like to join her and her husband on a cycling tour in France. Should I consider this as at the time my longest cycle trip had been around 20 km, I was diagnosed with PD some five years ago and I was 67?

I decided yes, I would do this and in May, I joined 12 other cyclists on a fully supported, week long cycling trip in Provence in the south of France. The tour was named Roman Provence as it includes many of the interesting sites with Roman history. It was a great experience and I felt a great sense of achievement.

The tour company, French Cycling Holidays (FCH) provides well maintained hybrid bikes with a removable carry bag mounted on the handle bars and helmets. You can bring your own bike should you wish. I took the saddle from my bike in Brisbane as my backside seems to have adjusted to it.

FCH offers a range of cycling tours in two broad categories, leisure and sport. Required fitness levels range from 1 (easy) up to 5 (expert). The Roman Provence tour was rated as 2-3 with 2 being relaxed and 3 being moderate. Level 3 is described “Some longer hills and rolling countryside. Daily distances 48 – 64 km.” Clearly I needed to improve my fitness level if I was going to enjoy this cycling tour. I increased my cycling distance but the longest distance travelled during a day was 42 km. I had my Pilates program adjusted to improve my cycling ability. This training certainly was beneficial however I would have benefited from some longer rides to help me pace my riding better.

FCH provides two guides, one who leads the cyclists and ensure that all cyclists enjoy the ride while the other guide drives the minibus to take cyclists luggage from town to town, organise picnics at lunch time and pick up any cyclists who run low in energy or enthusiasm. The bikes go either in the back of the bus or on the top. Accommodation is typically in small hotels; breakfast and dinner is included and being France this includes half a bottle of wine each. Lunch is either a picnic or a small café. And most importantly, there is always a coffee stop at around mid-morning.

Each day there was typically a non-cycling aspect. These included a winery visit, kayaking down the Gard River, the Roman Theatre in Oranges, the impressive Roman Aqueduct, Pont du Gard, the market in Uzes, the amazing Carrieres du Lumieres at Les Baux and a visit to the former home and now museum of painter van Gogh.

The tour group ranged in age from mid-20s to early 70s and came from Australia, UK, US, Canada and France. The weather was somewhat cooler than typical for late May as can be seen by the layers being worn by the cyclists. There was one rather wet afternoon but it really didn’t dampen spirits much as can be seen in these photos.

The tour route was mainly on very lightly trafficked country roads and some cycle paths. French motorists are typically very considerate of cyclists. They will overtake when it is safe to do so and if they toot their horn, it is to let you know that they are behind you. The tour guide would lead us in the larger towns in a slow and steady manner.

The weather in Provence during this May was much cooler than typical and the day we left, I bought arm warmers and leg warmers from my local bike shop. I didn’t need the leg warmers but the arm warmers were much appreciated; providing enough warmth early in the morning and easily removed as the day warmed up. My daughter showed me a great use for those flimsy shower caps you find in hotels; they do a great job of waterproofing a cycling helmet when it rains.

It was a great experience and a most satisfying feeling of achievement. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys cycling, a variety of experiences in a wonderful part of the world.

FCH details can be found at