My daughter’s face on Christmas day, when I opened the front door to reveal her brand new (to her anyway) pink bicycle, was classic! She was wearing her American Indian dressing up outfit and her new shoes, and she spent the following hour cycling up and down the road, showing off her breaking and turning skills. This was an incredibly proud moment for me, because my bike is a massive part of my life. Cycling has been my main mode of transport since I was 18 years old.
It took me 3 attempts at my driving test, before I was considered vaguely road worthy. In my first test I turned onto a road on the right side (the wrong side). Fail! In my second test I drove down a slip road, and my examiner had to slam the breaks on as we merged with a dual carriage way, to prevent a potentially fatal accident. Epic fail! Finally, someone deemed me to be a safe driver, and I was given a driving license. It’s biggest use over the past decade has been in buying wine!
In contrast, I passed my cycle proficiency test when I was barely in double digits. When I turned 18, I moved to the States and bought a blue bicycle. It was the first big environmentaly friendly decision I made in my life, and because I have never owned a car, I have never become used to the convenience of it. So I spent my 4 years at Uni, perfecting the art of cycling in high heels, and wearing a helmet without messing up my hair. It was a few more years before I accepted my 5″2 stature, and gave up caring so much about how straight my hair was! Montana taught me that it is hard to cycle in the snow, but that ski goggles are a great multi functioning accessory.
When I returned to the UK, I bought another blue bicycle – a Specialized Rock-Hopper. A little bit more fancy, but still a mountain bike rather then a road bike. I like being able to hop the curbs and cut across fields, dirt paths, and the occassional mountain. I used to race the bus to work – a 7 mile journey, and I regularly beat it. It was my coffee in the morning. It was my free gym membership, and I’ve saved shocking amounts of money by not being subject to the ever increasing petrol prices.
When I got myself up the duff, aged 24, I had to give up rock climbing and cycling. It was the hardest 9 months of my life. I was nauseous for 5 months, I struggled to walk because my hips hurt so much, and I felt like a beached whale. Eventually, Matilda was born. Apparently there are child bike seats that lean back so that you can put young babies in them, but I only learnt this recently, so I had to wait until Matilda was 6 months to put her in an up-right seat. I had to put a wooly hat on her so that her helmet would stay on, but it worked, and I was mobile again. Joy! I definitely couldn’t beat the bus, but I got back in shape by cycling with an increasingly heavy child on the back of my bike. It was like being in training, and gradually increasing the weight to make it harder, only it was a baby, and I was just taking her to playgroups!
About 6 months ago, not long after Matilda turned 3, I upgraded my bike to my version of the family SUV. I bought a “tag-along”. It is an attachment for the back of my bike, to give it a third wheel and an extra seat. Matilda has her own bike seat, peddles, handle bars, and a flag (her favourite bit). I was amazed at how easy it is to cycle, and would recommend it to any parent who wants to ditch their car in favour of carting their children around on a bike. I still cycle cross country and jump curbs, and I still go up and down hills with Matilda yelling “faster mummy” in my ear. Needless to say, she loves it.
And now, she has her own bike. She’s slow and she doesn’t like hills, but one day she won’t mind them so much. One day soon she will be cycling to school, then maybe out with her friends, and maybe, in no time at all, she will be cycling down to the pub, just like I was.