, , , , , , , , , , ,


(Going abroad with a bicycle the easy way)


  • ‘ A word or phrase as an explanation or afterthought added into a passage which is grammatically complete without it (usually marked off by brackets, dashes or commas.)’
  • A woman who on reaching sixty, finds herself adding many afterthoughts and unnecessary explanations (parentheses is the plural) to her writings.

You would be excused for thinking that the title for this post was to do with a new yoga regime for the older woman.

Or that my absence from this blog (it must be at least three months since my last post) is due to the fact that I have been away on a such named boot camp devised for the middle aged.

As an aside it has occurred to me that, while NOT writing, I have become sixty!

(A note to oneself: Keep writing… it prevents you getting OLD!)

And though I do feel some days that I have been inverted (Silly me to imagine things would slow down when I reached the above age) and even somewhat deflated, (It’s getting harder to find time to write) the above title is only to do with my fast approaching holiday in Portugal (Where I plan to rent a VW camper with bike rack and explore the Alentejo region) and the obvious question….

Do I bring the yellow bicycle with me or rent a bicycle when I arrive?

It might seem a simple enough affair to throw a bicycle into the nether regions of a plane but its more tedious than you would think (or maybe on reaching sixty things just appear more tedious)

You see for the passage of a bicycle, airlines request that you;

  • Deflate both tyres.
  • Invert both pedals
  • Drop the handle bars and turn them sideways
  • Lower the saddle.

These procedures are simple to accomplish with a good spanner, pump and wrench but the tediousness comes with the redoing of the undone.

Flying the yellow bicycle to France all those years ago when I was a young and energetic fifty year old (as opposed to the ease of cycling it fully intact onto a ferry and off the other side last September as I approached sixty) seems a long time ago.

Yet the recollection of sheltering from the downpour under a walkway outside the main doors of Bordeaux airport as I struggled to unwrap a large sodden cardboard box in which my bicycle had travelled, is still vibrant.

As the rain pelted down and the taxi men sat warm and smug in their cars watching the show, I wondered if it had been a wise idea after all.

I had packed it into a large cardboard box, courtesy of my local bike shop (The other option of using one of those fancy bicycle bags I dispensed with as unpractical. I didn’t intend hauling any unnecessary equipment on my journey). The idea that I would just tear up and throw away the cardboard seemed the best option (I had a month of cycling to consider how I would pack it for my return journey)

It turned out to be easy to fill up the various bins outside the airport with the sodden stuff. Whether it was legal or not was another question but nobody stopped me and as I cycled across France, I quickly learnt that if you are on a bicycle you can get away with anything.

At this stage, strip by strip the yellow bicycle began to reveled its shiny self and just as I had run out of bins, it stood before me, a sorry sight, its metaphorical head hanging as though in shame at being caught at its most vulnerable.

I got to work, my audience twisting their heads to get a better view.

Inflating tyres with a small hand pump is a lot less fun then deflating them but I pretended that I was having the time of my life.

Eventually that task was complete and I had less trouble attending to the inverted pedals and raising the saddle.

It was when I tried to tackle the final chore that I had to admit defeat.

No matter how well I held the handlebars upright and how tight I tightened the screws they just stubbornly dropped back down again.

Meanwhile the taxi men grew either bored or received a passenger because one by one they roared off enveloping me in a wreath of petrol fumes and leaving me with a bicycle that looked like a cross between an Omafiets , a hybrid and a racer.

However there was a happy ending to this story.

On finding a nearby bicycle shop a handsome young man (without any look of disdain) not only righted and tightened the handles to the correct height but also oiled the chain and finished inflating the tyres and, refusing to take any payment, handed me back my bike and wished me ‘Bon voyage’

Needless to say (as in all good films) I had only left the shop when the rain stopped and the sun came out.

With a light heart, I turned the yellow bicycle towards the west and headed into the setting sun.

My destination was Arcachon where I dipped the tyre of the yellow bicycle into the Atlantic before turning eastward and cycling across France to the Mediterranean.

In hindsight it hadn’t been too tedious and as I write this piece this piece this morning I know what I will do

I will bring the yellow bicycle to the dutch bicycle shop (the only bicycle shop where the employees don’t hide under the table when they see us coming) and get a few lessons on the raising of handlebars.

Then I will ring Aerlingus and add the yellow bicycle to my flight.

The end


(Arriving at the Mediterranean successfully with handlebars still aloft)