What’s The Most Fun You Can Have On A Bike Tour?
The origins of The Chain Gang lie in a trip to Brittany back in 1992, with 3 friends. None of us had ever been on a bike tour before, and frankly our week was utterly chaotic. But we had so much fun, laughing from the moment we woke up until bed time.
I constantly remind myself that the central mission of The Chain Gang isn’t necessarily bike tours at all. But if you want to explore France, then join a group and stick everyone on a bike, you’ll just have more fun.
And that brings me neatly onto Sabrage, that it is to say the art of opening a champagne bottle using a sabre (that’s sabre to our American friends – not to be confused with giant pre-historic tigers).
It doesn’t have to be champagne, any sparkling wine will do, and you certainly don’t need a sabre – and that’s where the fun starts!
Last May I was lucky enough to be guiding a group, in the Loire Valley, that included the Yorks, Bruce, Kim, and daughter Casey. As far as I’m concerned, this is the First Family of Sabering!
Unlike that famous refrain, folks, by all means DO try this at home! And here’s how.
1. Any sparkling wine will do.
2. The bottle should start chilled, but put it in the freezer for the last 20 minutes*
3. You’ll need to remove any foil covering, and fold back (or remove) the wire cage.
4. On every bottle, if you look carefully, you’ll find a seam that runs up the side of the bottle. There are two seams, opposite each other, almost as if the bottle has been zipped up.
5. Choose your Sabre! I use a pedal spanner, but you can use anything that weighs a bit, and has a good, flat, edge. For example, the back of a decent carving knife, a hand-axe. Try it with a fish slice. The First Family have sabered with a ski, and, believe it or not, with a wine glass!
6. You’re not aiming to chop the neck off the bottle. You want to slide the sabre along the bottle, aiming to hit the neck cleanly at the point of the seam. You want to have some momentum. Tennis players should do very well, the aim is to follow-through. Imagine you’re trying to hit a point about a foot beyond the end of the bottle.
7. Sabre…away! With luck, and a fair wind, the entire end of the bottle flies off, along with the cork and the cage. Almost nothing gets spilled, but it’s best to have somebody stood next to you with an empty glass.
* The final 20 minutes in the freezer is ideal, but not strictly necessary.
It’s almost as cool as surfing. Sabering while surfing is probably the coolest thing that you can do. But that’s advanced stuff. The next best thing is sabering whilst not surfing, and I promise you, we can all do that.
Here’s a video of Sandra, from Florianopolis in Brazil, sabering in Amboise:
If you join a Chain Gang tour this summer, basically you are going to saber. But if you’ve got the taste for it, you might enjoy this Instagram channel. , maintained by Sabering’s First Family, the Yorks. They try all kinds of implements, from water bottles, through skis to knives, axes anything you can think of that’s got an excuse for an edge to it.
Click here to see their collection of videos. The title is “Will It Saber? And the answer isn’t always Yes! Do yourself a favour, click to find out more. And look out for Bruce, successfully sabering with – a pick axe!