There are times when travelling with a Brompton does feel like it’s more trouble than it’s worth – such as when you’re in Chester station sprinting* up and down the stairs after your third platform change in 20 minutes, or indeed when you get to the barrier at the shiny new Kings Cross and discover that you can only top up your Oyster card by going down more stairs to the underground station and back up again because obviously integrated transport systems are for wimps with poor upper-body strength.
But I’m still glad I brought it with me this trip because on Friday, after the conversation had somehow turned to cycling (can’t think how that happened), one of my fellow trainees revealed she’d never ridden a bike as where she grew up it was considered not done for women to cycle. Half jokingly, I suggested she have a go on my Brompton. To my surprise and slight trepidation she readily agreed and so on Saturday during a break in our training I found myself teaching an adult to ride a bike – a first for both of us.
Now the Brompton isn’t always the easiest of bikes to ride, being a bit lively (some might say squirrelly) about the steering. But riding a bike is all about balance and my pupil had beautiful posture, which was half the battle. There was a long straight tarmacked driveway with a gentle downhill slope and I stood in front of her and walked backwards as she rode towards me. After one false start she was away and pedalling like a good un and there was only a little screaming, which quickly went from fear to delight. By the time she had got to the bottom of the drive and back up she was ready to buy her own bike and accompany her daughters on their rides in the park. In fact, once our lesson was over, I had a bit of a job to get her to let go of the Brompton at all…
So, although I now have a terrible case of Brompton shoulder from all yesterday’s lugging about – and undoubtedly a fresh set of Brompton bruises on my leg – I wouldn’t have left it behind for the world. There’s nothing, but nothing, like seeing someone experience the freedom of cycling for the first time to remind you that all the pain and angst and aggro of cycle campaigning is worth it because riding a bike itself is nothing but delight. Now all we have to do is create the conditions so she can ride her new bike on our roads, as well as round the park.
* and by ‘sprinting’ obviously I mean staggering up the stairs with it resting on one thigh.