Ain’t no Cure for the Summertime Blues

June 26, 2019

“These are the days we dream about all winter” I said as I pedalled homewards with a pal from the last day of Buddies’ bike extravaganza. For the sun had come out, the wind had dropped, and I was light of heart, if not exactly of bike

(look, when it comes to charity-shop shopping, she who hesitates is lost).

“Never mind all that,” my companion replied, for she is truly a person after my own heart – “can we just stop and take a photograph of where the pipeline went in?”

flowers along pipeline route

The grass may long since have grown up over the pipeline route, but the flowers give it away…

I had stuff to do after a day spent gallivanting around the roads with our cavalcade of curious cycles, and I will likely regret not spending this afternoon and evening doing it, but when I got home it was sandals weather for the first time all year, and the other half had fired up the barbecue. If we can’t down tools on occasion and waste a few hours just enjoying the garden, why do we bother having one?

daisies in garden

For these really are the days we dream about all winter and we need to make the most of them when they arrive.


Hitting the Road

June 24, 2019

When you’re heading out on the bike for a day of adventure, it helps to have the weather on your side

(photo does not show the epic thunderstorm that – from the sound of it – passed directly overhead shortly afterwards)

Luckily it wasn’t really my adventure today, but Buddies who are holding a three-day sponsored bike ride on the flatter roads around Bigtown, and by the time they had assembled (held up, ironically enough, in traffic on the bypass) the rain had stopped and stayed more or less stopped for the rest of the day (my socks, on the other hand, were still soaking wet when I got home six hours later).

Cycling event sign

Twenty-one miles over three days on back roads may not seem like a lot for most cyclists, but it’s big jump when your cycling up to now has been mostly round the local park and you’ve never really ridden on anything but the quietest residential street. Fortunately, our motley crew of two- and three-wheelers – plus the wheelchair transporter trike – were also accompanied by two motorbikes and a following car, courtesy of our local Blood Bikes.

Obviously, this being a bike ride, we needed a cafe stop and fortunately a local farm runs a delicious ice-cream parlour – we even got free ice creams. This was exactly a mile into our ride but you take your cafe stops where you find them around here.

Ice cream parlour

From there, the six further miles to the pub where we ended the first day went remarkably quickly, even with one rider stopping dead every time she came to a hill she didn’t like, which was most of them. The drivers were pretty patient, nobody fell off, and we arrived with the same number of people as we left with,* which always counts as a success for a group ride. In fact, once you’d got over the unusual bikes and the need to allow for various additional needs, it felt pretty much like any other group ride – riding along through beautiful countryside chatting with the other riders, saying hello to the cows (you all do say hello to cows as you pass them, right?), speculating about how much further there is to go, rejoicing in a downhill stretch or a tailwind – and above all the sense of achievement as you sail into the pub car park, certain that you have earned your lunch.

Arriving at the pub

There has been a massive amount of logistics involved, of course, in getting to that point safely – these guys are a long way from being able to enjoy the real freedom a bike brings, and maybe they never will. But at least they’ve got a taste of what’s possible – and from there, who knows?

PS – for those wondering – Stephen came too, but on a trike and he had an absolute whale of a time.

* Actually we gained one, as we managed to rendezvous with the passenger for the wheelchair transporter en route. I think the community transport guys were a bit bemused to find themselves taking a wheelchair user out into the middle of nowhere to track down a bunch of cyclists and then load her up onto a cargo bike, but they did it with good grace.

Take up thy Bike and Pedal

November 23, 2018

So, a number of you have asked how Stephen has been getting on with his bike riding endeavours. I have to confess that we’ve failed to get him pedalling on two wheels, although he’s now perfectly happy riding a trike – in the end, after giving it our absolute best shot, we decided it wasn’t fair on Stephen or on us to keep persisting. Bikes are (mostly) wonderful self-balancing machines, but only above a certain speed, and he has so far never quite had the confidence to get up to that speed long enough to achieve escape velocity.

We may give it another go later, encouraged by another of the Buddies – let’s call him Peter – who’s been pretty determined to stick to the four-wheel go kart for the last few months. We’ve been trying to encourage him to at least give a trike a go, and he’s consistently promised that next week he will definitely ride the trike, and every week there’s always a reason why he needs to stick to the go kart this time around (I suspect that the fact it’s got a steering wheel and can be made to do something resembling a handbrake turn has got a lot to do with it). So yesterday, out we went on a variety of bikes, plus Peter on the go kart, made our painful way across the two-stage-caged-in-sorry-were-you-in-a-hurry toucan crossing to the park, had some fun practising high fives and slaloms around the band stand and then started heading back along the river. It was at that point that one of the other guys decided he wanted a go on the go kart to see what it was like. Peter happily obliged – and then picked up the left over bike, got on it, and happily pedalled off, to everyone’s amazement except, perhaps, his own.

Buddies on the Whitesands

Perhaps one day Stephen will do the same…

Playing Fair

September 28, 2018

So, this week the Rood Fair has come to Bigtown – as it has done since 1592, apparently, although I suspect back then there were fewer waltzers and candyfloss stalls and more cattle sales and witch burnings. And, as has happened every year since almost 1592, I have found my path along the river blocked by assorted lorries, generators, rides and fair equipment, despite it being part of the National Cycling Network and nothing in the way of complaining to the council, asking the fair or sending sarcastic tweets made a blind bit of difference. However this year, for the first time in 426 years, I have discovered the secret weapon in getting a route cleared through all the paraphernalia: these guys

Buddies on the Whitesands

One of the many great things about the Buddies, is that, stick them on a trike or their newly acquired side-by-side pedal go kart (I hesitate to call it a tandem; tank would be nearer the mark) and they have magical leave to go anywhere. We wanted to get to the park, and so generators got moved, rides got repositioned, and barriers shoved out even if that meant narrowing the road so we could pass. Indeed, even when the fair is not on, not only are they entirely welcome on the pavement – but the few times we’ve ventured onto the road, white vans have driven at walking pace behind us with perfect patience, and we’ve been waved through junctions with a smile. It’s like riding in another country, and if only the pedal-powered go kart could cope with even the slightest incline, I’d never cycle anywhere without them. It’s bloody magic.