Cycling On

To live in touch with the Earth is to be aware of our impact upon it; one aspect of that is transport. For many years my bike was my main mode of transport, with occasional car or train use for longer distances. I was never particularly fast, so we bought a tandem when we started riding as a couple. It has carried us over the Pyrenees and the Alps, and with more difficulty over Yorkshire’s challenging hills. However, I haven’t been doing much cycling in the past few years, for various reasons, and then when I tried again I discovered I was pregnant. Not the best time to restart!

Now nearly three summers on, I have been keen to get my bike out again. Most of my journeys are around 5 miles, although being Derbyshire it is very hilly! Some investigation of options for cycling with small children followed, and a few test rides to shock the system. I didn’t want to mess about and miss this summer as well though, so after proving my bike worked and I could ride a short distance (three miles), I got out my trusty pendulum to dowse for what would be best for both M and me: a weatherproof trailer.

Bought on a Friday evening, we test rode it the following morning on a trip to the nearest town. I had the great idea that if my husband pulled the trailer I could watch to pick up some riding tips, and he might be slowed down enough that I could keep up. No such luck – we went slowly down the first hill, and then I didn’t see them again until he stopped to wait for directions. If we want to ride as a family, we’ll have to dust off the tandem…

After an even shorter test ride with the trailer myself, I spent the next two evenings checking out possible routes to the parent and toddler group. (The hours are flexible enough that my arrival time there wouldn’t matter.) While the first mile and a half had to be along the main road through our village, after that there were numerous options. I tried the cycle track route first – but some of it was so muddy that it was impassable on my bike, let alone with a trailer; I had to stop to scrape out the mudguards with a stick. The final part was a pleasant smooth tarmac, but when trying to exit the cycle track onto roads on the way home, I discovered that the posts across the entrance were too narrowly spaced to allow a trailer through.

Day two I attempted to retrace my route along the back roads, and promptly missed an unsigned turning. Glad I didn’t have the trailer on when climbing back up that hill! Having corrected my mistake and got to the place successfully by road, I then tried to come back using a popular ‘green road’. Fine for mountain bikes, but not my tourer and trailer; the combination of worn out concrete overlaid with worn out tarmac didn’t make for an easy ride, the potholes having pretty sharp edges to avoid. Very pretty though between the hedges, and lots of birdsong so one of the best evening rides I have ever enjoyed.

I’m glad to say that the day of our maiden voyage was lovely and sunny, and not too hot. (Why would I expect anything less?) Given no route that I had test ridden was any good, I followed another possibility I had checked out on Google maps. It was the prettiest yet, taking us down a well-surfaced footpath alongside a large duck pond, a quarter mile link that I would happily walk regularly were it not for the difficulties of manoeuvring a bike with trailer around a wheelchair-sized kissing gate at the far end. We returned along the road.

So now I have ridden there and back with M twice. It is hard work, and my lowest gear has been not only used but really needed as I twiddle up the steepest hill, but it is also really enjoyable. There is just something about the speed of a bike which I really love – I’m the one with the silly grin on her face when riding in the pouring rain. The traffic is less of a problem with a trailer than when solo, but I just trust I am doing the right thing and most drivers have been exceptionally courteous. As for M, she hops in and out quite happily, and then sleeps really well!

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