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Three Men on Bikes Part Deux...

Or Two Men on Bikes and One on a Bloody Recumbent

Re-cum-bent (adj.)
1. Lying down, especially in a position of comfort or rest; reclining.
2. Resting; idle.

Re-cum-bent (noun)
Type of bicycle ridden by eccentric nutters who like adopting a reclined posture. Celebrated users include Barry Astral. soon as we were clear of the town we found ourselves belting along the country lanes as if we were in the team time trial ourselves. This is due to another phenomenon known only to those who ride with Barry Astral. As soon as you set off with him, on any ride, he goes straight into what can only be described as ‘eye balls out’ mode. Nothing can slow him down this early in the ride; you just have to wait for him to start dying. I’ve learnt over many years that shouted entreaties or insults have no effect. The only thing to do is tuck in behind and hang on until the inevitable slow-down. Mind you, there’s not much shelter to be found behind him due to him being half the height of a normal bike and rider when he’s on that bloody recumbent. Just as well he’s a bit slower now he’s getting on a bit.

A few miles later and things calmed down enough for us to start enjoying a nice easy ride through some great French countryside. We followed the course of a river called the Canche with the road winding through villages like Beauranville and Willeman. This latter place obviously caused much ribald amusement as we are of course in reality three schoolboys still waiting to grow up, with associated levels of humour. As Mr. Astral sprinted away towards the town sign to take the prime (French word pronounced ‘preem’ for intermediate sprints during bike races) he shouted ‘Yes! I am the Willy Man!’ We had no argument with that.

By now Barry Astral’s presence was causing some consternation among the French populace. Recumbents can’t be very common in rural France judging by the pointing and shouted bemusement he was attracting as we cycled by. ‘What are they saying?’ he asked. ‘They’re shouting “Cretin” and “Imbecile”, we replied in our best French accents. ‘Oh very funny’ he said, and stopped waving at what he had thought were his adoring fans.

We stopped at a very nice medieval town called Hesdin for something to eat before pressing on to St. Pol-sur-Ternoise and the Hotel le Royal, where we were booked in for our two night stay. Fairly basic but clean and cheap, all that was needed by impoverished cyclo-touristes. Our accommodation was in a slightly odd arrangement; a large twin-bedded room with a small double-bedded room off of it alongside the bathroom. As befits his advancing years, Barry exercised his ‘droit de seigneur’ and wasted no time nabbing the double room, thereafter to be known as The Astral Annexe (sounds familiar; science fiction film isn’t it?).

After a wash and brush-up and a bit of lazing about, we ventured out into the town on foot to find a restaurant. This turned out to be easier said than done, as we traipsed up and down the streets in an increasingly desperate search for an eatery. We finally came across the one and only open restaurant in the town. It didn’t look too promising, being virtually empty, but we weren’t in a position to be choosy. Luckily it wasn’t too bad at all and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours there eating our fill and getting mildly sloshed. Well, apparently Barry and I did, but Andy Bandy insists he was sober as a judge as it only takes about half a pint for B. Astral or T. Tickle to be out of it. He always says that and I’d deny it if I could, but funnily enough, I can never remember if he’s right. Very frustrating that. Especially when I have a headache. And I was as sober as a newt.

We rolled back to the hotel to get our heads down before the next day when we’d be riding to Arras to watch Lance Armstong et al riding Le Tour’s team time trial. Our first day had been blessed with warm sunshine but that piece of good luck was about to run out.........



Three Men on Bikes Part One...

“I can’t ride for more than an hour on a normal bike. I’ve got to use my recumbent”.

With those few words Barry Astral created one of his ‘situations’. A ’situation’ involving Barry means events of farcical proportions will follow, as sure as night follows day. If Barry doesn’t throw a spanner in the works, there’s something wrong. Even more wrong than what’s going to ensue anyway. If you follow me (bet you don’t).

Anyway, when Andrew proposed the three of us should take our bikes to France for a couple of days to try to see a stage of Le Tour it seemed like a great idea. As we could only spare a couple of nights away we agreed we weren’t that interested in just watching a flat road stage with the whole field of riders flashing by in a matter of seconds.
What we needed was a mountain stage (which always splits the field up nicely) or a time trial (with everyone riding individually against the clock). As it happened the team time trial stage that year (2003) was in northern France, not far from the coast, so looked ideal to reach easily.

After much perusing of maps, we decided to drive to Montreuil-Sur-Mer, a mere 45 minutes from Calais, then dump the car and continue for the two-night duration of our trip entirely by bike. We booked an hotel a couple of hours ride from Montreuil that wasn’t far from where the Tour stage would pass. Perfect, what could go wrong?

So it’s time for the off and we meet at Andrew’s house as we’re going in his estate car. Three passengers and three bikes? Easy peasy. At least it was until Mr. Astral rolled up on his recumbent.

“How the bloody hell are we going to get that thing in the car”, said Andrew and I in unison.

Obviously we did it in the end. The jiggery-pokery required to do it had to be seen to be believed so I won’t bore you with a comprehensive description of the effort required. Let’s just say Andrew and I were far more enthusiastic about the extended diatribe we were spouting at all recumbents while calling into question Barry’s parentage. Barry just grinned and watched as we worked out how to get the damned thing in the car alongside the other bikes and ourselves. Mind you, he wasn’t smiling quite so much when he ended up spending the journey with a brake lever sticking in his neck while a pedal nestled in his groin. One false move and he could join the BeeGees.

A few hours later we were through the Channel Tunnel and in Montreuil. We found a town centre car park where we could leave the car for a couple of days and extracted Barry from his rather vulnerable position. After loading up our panniers and saddlebags we finally climbed on our bikes. Now we could actually start riding.

Well this is supposed to be about three men on bikes.