One of the downsides of eating delicious food for a living (ok, no sympathy, fair enough) is that you do need to stay active to burn up a few calories. When I heard about a new local venture, Ride and Dine Electric Bike Tours, starting in St Albans, it really appealed to me. Hop on an electric bike, explore the pretty rural lanes, then head to the pub for tea afterwards; sounds great.
I met Jeni Peacock, owner of the company, and tour leader Allan MacCormack in the car park of the pretty Rose & Crown, Sandridge, on a balmy Wednesday evening. Allan gave us helmets and explained to the group how to use the electric bikes; you do still have to pedal and put some effort in, but “it’s like having Chris Hoy pedalling” for you. He pointed out how to use the “sport” mode, which we were to use to whizz up hills.
Following Allan, the group set off, cycling past The Wicked Lady, past L’Olivo in Wheathamstead, to join the Ayot Green Way. Mostly traffic-free, our route was really beautiful, taking us past bluebell woods, fields, farms and houses. We passed The Brocket Arms about halfway through our ride, on to Shaw’s Corner, then to Batford. Passing The Cross Keys in Kimpton, we whizzed along the Harpenden Road cycle path, then found a quiet lane that took us past Sandridge butchers, then back down to the Rose & Crown. It took a couple of hours, allowing for photo stops, bike adjustments and chatting.
Ride and Dine Electric run a couple of tours, including one in the Chilterns, and their main route in St Albans takes you to Childwickbury, Gorhambury and Verulamium Park. It is a fab idea for any visitors to the area, and Allan told me that they have people coming from London for the Chilterns tour. It would also be great for anyone who already knows the area; in my group most people were locals, and we all found places we had never discovered before, and it felt a real treat to be whizzing around quiet lanes on an evening after work; it makes you feel like a kid again. Take a rucksack with water, gloves and maybe an extra sweatshirt as anything can happen with the British weather. A tour will go ahead in a bit of drizzle but will be rescheduled for torrential rain.
Jeni had the idea for the business following a cycling holiday in Austria, and she explained how electric bikes were hugely popular in other European countries. With a background in travel, Jeni was keen to bring the idea to her home town.
You need to be over 14 and at least 5ft 2” to go on the tours. I can imagine it being a fab thing to do with a group of friends or a work get-together, and there was chat in the pub about it being a great date night option.
We finished in the 400-year old Rose & Crown, where Jeni had chosen British tapas for us to share. The Rose & Crown is a very successful local pub, and under the management of Jamie West and Head Chef Darren Chason has won Best Family Pub in London & South East 2015 (The Publican’s Morning Advertiser). They are in The Good Beer Guide 2015, and my Ghost Ship was lovely. We devoured home-made sausage rolls, scotch eggs, whitebait (from The Stickleback Fish Company), frittata, red onion and goats’ cheese tarts, pots of Cumberland sausage meatballs in tomato sauce and stuffed Portobello mushrooms; well, we had just cycled 16 miles.
The St Albans tour runs most Wednesdays (6.30) through the summer, plus the Bank Holidays in May (10.30); all dates are on the website. The cost is £50 per person and £85 for a couple. Allow at least 3.5 hours. Book online at rideanddineelectric.co.uk or call 07970 480672.