A short biography of Breton Bikes cycling in France
The Birth of Breton Bikes and our love affair with France
A couple of people have emailed this year and mentioned that they didn't know our names - as I make great play of us being the most personal cycling holiday company in the business it seemed a hideous oversight. So then I got thinking and decided that maybe a bit of our history, and that of Breton Bikes might be worth reading so here goes...
First - my name is Geoff Husband, and Kate is my wife and partner in Breton Bikes. I guess you could call the business split as being 'if it's oily or on the internet it's Geoff, everything else is Kate:-)'
We met at school in 1978, I was 18, Kate 16 and we've been together ever since. We married in 1982 and we both ended up teaching, in my case secondary school science, in Kate's primary school age.
So where did the cycling in France come from? Well you know about life changing moments? Two are relevant... First in our case was a visit to Halfords (a car parts and bike chain in Britain) in Barnstaple in about 1984. I was buying oil for the car, when Kate suddenly went dewy-eyed over the bikes and began to reminisce about how she and her friend used to go youth hostelling on their bikes when she was 13. First I'd ever heard of it! That evening she dug out some old photos of a skinny 13 year old on a Dawes 'Daisybell' setting off with a full saddlebag. We'd just had a tax rebate so instead of paying off the overdraft she persuaded me to buy two bikes and so the first seeds of Breton Bikes were sown.
Of course the bikes were completely unsuitable for cycletouring, but as with all my obsessions I read everything I could find on the subject, became an 'instant expert' and within 12 months we had all the right gear.
Now the second 'life changing' moment. For my 26th birthday (1986) Kate bought me a pair of tickets on some cowboy coach outfit to Paris. I was a bit taken aback. I'd never been abroad (unless you call Wales 'abroad') and had no desire to visit France. I was a country bumpkin who didn't like wine, didn't eat rare meat, didn't have a word of French etc etc. Another piece of Kate's distant past came up - her French exchange with a wealthy family in the South of France when she was 14. She'd stayed in touch and they just happened to have a wonderful flat in Paris that was empty for the 10 days we were going to be there.
You can guess the rest. 10 days of heaven and a 'new man' returned to Britain (was that Kate's intention?). I could write a book about that week, but all you need to know is that I returned well versed in the art of drinking red wine and eating red meat, and with a passion for France that remains with me today.
OK so you add those two moments together. Summer 1986 found us cycling, and camping in France - through Brittany and through the Loire valley with a couple of friends. Now this too was significant because one of those friends was Kate's old school friend Sally. Sally is very decorative, carried heated rollers with her and spend quite a while each morning getting ready. We'd persuaded her to come and she became a complete convert - the point being that if we could persuade her????
For the next three years we spent all our spare time cyclecamping, mostly in France, then in 1988 something happened that would change our lives...
My Dad rang me to tell me that my Auntie Rhona had died and that she had left me a little money. Now to be honest I wasn't too upset as I'd never met the lady in question, she wasn't my real 'Auntie', just a cousin of my mothers twice removed or some such. You know people who say, "we don't want the money to change our lives" well we weren't going to be like that!
In two nights of brainstorming the whole Breton Bikes idea came out, it was just waiting for us and it has remained essentially unchanged for the last 27 years. People thought us mad but in 12 months we'd given up our jobs and moved to France - our new lives had begun.
Now after 26 years running Breton Bikes, with three children - Arthur (22), Sam (20) and Rosie (19) - all born in France - we are still as excited as the first day we came over. In order to see how Breton Bikes developed over the years see the 'History of Breton Bikes'
*One rather nice postscript to the story. When my father went through Rhona's effects he found an English-French dictionary which he gave to us. In the back, neatly written in copperplate handwriting were all the names of bicycle components and their equivalent in French. It seems that Rhona too had cycletoured in France. I hope that what we did with her money would have pleased her...