WITH record crowds lining the route of the UK’s Tour de France stages it’s safe to say that the cycling season is in full swing and more popular than ever.

Many people in mid Cheshire are preparing to undertake their own cycling challenges this summer, covering long distances at home or abroad to raise money for charity or just for their own enjoyment.

So in this week’s Pedal Power we look at two men who have recently returned from their own mini Tour de France and the advice they can give.

A LANDLORD and a town clerk have raised more than £2,000 with a three-day bicycle tour of Brittany.

Rod Clansey, from Davenham pub the Oddfellows Arms, and Chris Shaw, Northwich Town Council’s clerk, covered 300 miles in their adventure, which they did in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.

The duo faced a number of challenges en route, including hill climbs on heavily loaded bikes, hot temperatures, getting lost and the unexpected peril of each other.

Rod said: “I was taking a picture at the top of a hill to show the altitude we’d climbed to and Chris decided to run into the back of me and knocked me into a ditch.

“There I was lying in the ditch, face down with my bike on top of me.

“Chris came up and said ‘oh I’m sorry about that, are you ok?’.”

Chris said: “Another time we were following the sat nav and made the decision to follow a route along the river.

“It got narrower and narrower until it was a dirt track, then a farmer’s field full of rocks, boulders and trees.

“I shouted to Rod ‘mind your head on this tree’ and two seconds later he hit his head on it.”

Rod said: “The pair of us fell off in a farmer’s field because of a tractor rut we didn’t see.

“But it was absolutely stunning and I would love to do it again.

“Cycling in France is great because they’ve got so much respect for cyclists and you meet such great people.”

The pair have been amazed by the support they have had in their fundraising, including Oddfellows Arms regular John Baxter, known as Barney, who held his 50th birthday at the pub but asked for people to sponsor Rod and Chris instead of buying gifts.

THE duo had some wise advice for other cyclists taking part in long distance bike rides this summer.

• Training – “You’ve got to do your training in advance and be prepared for it, that’s imperative,” said Rod.

• Creams – saddle sore is a big problem on long distance rides so research the best padded shorts and chamois cream to keep comfortable.

• Nutrition – Rod said it was important to be aware of how much you need to eat to maintain energy levels and advised not drinking any alcohol during the trip.

• Packing – “Make sure you’ve got plenty of gear with you if you’ve not got any backup – spare chain and innertubes, tools, lubrication etc – but be aware that your bike becomes very heavy by the time you’ve filled your panniers and luggage and you need to be prepared for that,” Rod said.

• Timings – “Give yourself more time,” said Rod, who wished their trip had been spread over five days. “Do about 40 or 45 miles a day to give yourself chance to enjoy and savour and enjoy the beautiful places you’re cycling through.”

• Planning – book accommodation in advance.

• Navigation – the pair recommended using a combination of satellite navigation and road maps.

• Enjoy it – “It’s a great adventure but just prepare yourself and train hard,” Rod said.