I have to admit, I was sceptical of this story of bike-borne sheep herding when I first read it. In my experience, if you have a skittish lamb to round up, then a bike is probably the worst thing to attempt it on because sheep do one thing and one thing only when confronted by a bike and that is run away and the faster the bike gets, the faster the sheep goes. Sure, in theory you can get past the lamb and then herd it back to mama, but in my experience, they can get up to quite a speed when being chased by a bike and I’ve never had either the legs or the heart to press on past them, especially when they start to look a bit panicky. Clearly Lovely Bike is way fitter and faster than me – or else Norn Iron sheep are just more chilled around bikes, which seems unlikely. Some lambs (well, one) are a bit less bike-phobic than their mothers but on the whole, I didn’t think Brompton sheep herding was likely to catch on.
But today, I had to be in Notso Bigtown to help prepare a popup bookshop and I was fairly sure I was going to want to scrounge a lift back, so I took the Brompton. I was running a little late and into a head wind so I wasn’t best pleased to see half a dozen sheep loose ahead of me on the road towards Papershop Village. I didn’t have time to get off the bike and try and get them into a field and I didn’t want to end up herding them in front of me all the way to Big A Road, where woolly carnage would ensue. I approached them over the crest of the hill trying to calculate my options. There was a farm yard coming up ahead which they might dart off into and become Somebody Else’s Problem. Otherwise, I was a bit stuck.
But, as I got closer and closer, the sheep didn’t seem to even notice my presence. Finally one of them, a ragged individual who had already half climbed out of her winter fleece, glanced my way. She seemed to say something to the others who glanced up casually too. Eventually they shuffled off to one side of the road. As I passed, they had resumed eating and seemed supremely unbothered by my presence. I can only assume that the Brompton – small and upright and inconspicuous as it is – just doesn’t read like a bike to the average sheep. I must have just looked like a fairly speedy human, or not even a particularly speedy one, given the headwind. Either that, or these were Irish sheep, hardened by the passage of the Giro d’Italia.
The other reason for taking the Brompton was to test it over some fairly hefty hills. It might have to be lent out for my next Anniversaire, and I wanted to make sure that the route I had chosen was actually doable with the gearing I’ve got. So far so good, although I think I may have to factor in a few more cake stops this year…