The Great Outdoors

With Scotland’s restrictions beginning to tighten, it’s clear that any non-virtual social life we’re going to have for the foreseeable future will depend on the weather and our willingness to get out and about in it.

One side effect of this is that the Bigtown Cycle Campaign’s family friendly rides – which hitherto might have attracted an average of 8-10 particants, maybe more if it was a very nice summer’s day – have become popular beyond our wildest dreams. We’ve had to jump through a lot of hoops before we could make them happen – appointing a Coronavirus Officer being just the start of it – and make elaborate plans to keep people safely apart, but the last three rides have ended up fully booked on almost zero publicity, and I have had a surplus of volunteers to help out with the rides too, which is definitely not the normal state of affairs.

Sociable distancing

Much as I love bikes, I’m not sure that it’s entirely the cycling that’s the main attraction, at least not for the adults. Partly we’ve been lucky with the weather – we had nigh-on t-shirt weather for the first two rides – but mainly it’s been the realisation that we aren’t kidding when we say we run our rides at the speed of chat, and that chatting is what we do. For many of us, it’s been a long time since we had a chance to simply shoot the breeze with a person we don’t live with, in person, without a screen and all the fun of muted microphones and unflattering up-nostril shots to get in the way. The first ride we ran, out to Bigtown’s determinedly low-key stone circle, the middle group were there chatting when the third group arrived, and were still there chatting after we’d had a snack, walked all the way around the stones and gone back to our bikes. For some of us, there’s just a lot of pent up talking that needs to be done.

It’s very satisfying when people line themselves up in rainbow fashion for a photo…

Today, we had an extra bonus ride down to the local wetland centre to welcome our wintering geese home and learn a bit about the local wildlife – a good 20 mile round trip, and a challenge to some of the younger participants, most of whom had never ridden that distance before. The weather was distinctly Octoberish and I wasn’t sure if if it would dampen people’s enthusiasm but it didn’t seem to, despite a blustery headwind the whole way back – as we rode back I showed one of the kids who came along where to position himself relative to my wheel so he could draft a bit out of the wind. ‘Is this a bit like what the geese do?’ he asked, and it was such a perfect ‘learning moment’ that I was slightly embarrassed to foist it on the poor lad during what was supposed to be his half term holiday.

Next Sunday is the last of them and it’s already fully booked. Who knew at the start of the year how much enthusiasm there would be for the simple act of heading out and riding a bike in company?

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