Adam Lee-Potter on the pressing need for a family holiday which doesn’t involve bikes


- Credit: Archant

For some men cycling can become an unhealthy obsession but there comes a point when the boy must become a man and address the pressing need for a family holiday which doesn’t involve bikes

This month marks a brave new chapter: we are moving house and going on a bicycle-free holiday. Neither is before time. When I dragged my then heavily pregnant wife on ‘one last’ cycling holiday, she should surely have realised that this MAMIL (middle-aged man in Lycra) was not for turning.

‘Come on,’ I told her crossly, ‘who else is going to drive the support vehicle and fill up my bidons?’

Even when she went into labour in the foothills of Limoges, I insisted on trying to make it back to Calais on two wheels: ‘This could be the last time for ages that I can properly attack the Massif Central.’

We made it as far as Orleans. Even then I made sure to lock up my beloved, bespoke Condor before bursting through the doors of the maternity hospital to tell the staff nurse in my best schoolboy French: ‘Ma femme, elle est grosse avec bebe.’

Eight years on, I don’t know what caused more alarm: the sound of my wife’s waters breaking or the sight of my newly-shaved legs glinting beneath my scarlet Lycra skinsuit.

My wife had, I know, hoped she’d break me of my nasty cycling habit when she astonishingly agreed – in 2002 – to cycle 15,000 miles round the world with me.

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Shot at in Israel and abducted in Jordan, we careered off a 100ft cliff in Nepal, were pelted with Big Macs by rednecks in Louisiana and had our tent set on fire by Bedouin on the Sinai peninsula. I loved every second of it.

Every holiday since has – I admit - been dominated by cycling. Even if I’m not riding, I’m watching. Our daughter Dory was still in nappies when I broke the news of our first family mini-break.

My wife was initially thrilled until I admitted that we were actually driving to the South of France to watch my friend Alex ride the Etape du Tour – the annual amateurs’ bash at a mountain stage of the Tour de France.

A year later, it was my turn.

‘But I’ve got to,’ I told my wife, as if it were chemotherapy, ‘it ends on the top of Mont Ventoux.’

This irresistible Provencal col - 22 kilometres of relentless, 10 per cent ascent – is a pig. For both participant and spectator.

Ventoux is the climb that killed the great Tommy Simpson on the 1967 tour. The British champion’s heart stopped just half-a-mile from the 1,909-metre summit.

His last words as he collapsed, still gripping the handlebars, were: ‘Put me back on my bike’. His mechanic obliged. Moments later, Tommy was dead.

What possessed me to think this was a family holiday is still beyond my wife. She had, she tells me tartly and often, been thinking Cephalonia or perhaps New York.

Cycling studs our house: from the three bikes that litter the hall, snug and kitchen to the 12ft cardboard cut-out of Tommy tacked to the bedroom wall.

But enough is probably enough: I have cracked. And so, we are buying a grand new house (with its own designated bike shed) and flying off to Crete. My bicycle – and, with it, my Veet for Men - is staying behind.

I’m sure I can hire one.


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