I’m starting to resent the time and the faff of preparing to ride. It must be all this commuting where – dull as it is – at no point do bike trailers, cars and driving form a environmentally disturbing juxtaposition to cycling. And it’s not all 80s “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” hand wringing either. Getting ready, getting changed, getting pissed off at the twentieth trip back to the house for some trivial riding accessory like shoes seems eats into precious riding time. My pre-ride mind state is somewhere between jumpily frazzled and downright irritated with life.
So now try this with the kids and multiply that irritation to the power of about a thousand. It took me ONE HOUR to dust off unused bikes, fix brakes, pump up tyres, dismantle one for the boot, have three attempts to load the trailer and then waste most of the remainder of the morning finding and filling lost camelbaks.
The idea was simple. As part of my “no drive to ride” plan, I’ve been investigating a route along the Great Union Canal (starting in Aylesbury) to a popular ride start. It looked like it’d be a fun place for the kids to up their game a bit with it’s relative narrowness compared to the Sustrans.
Unfortunately my reece failed to factor in a month’s rain on the trail and the spring explosion of waterside vegetation. A combination of mud, people traffic and the proximity of the canal soon caused Random to plunge headlong into a nettle patch of extreme stinginess. This after we’d had about four close shaves, parental shouting and sibling sulking as the kids tried to remember how to ride properly after a couple of month of scooter action. I’d clearly misjudged – well – almost everything really so time for plan B.
We quit the bumpy path only to find a delightful, easy to navigate trail round the local nature reserve and flood plain (interesting combination that). The prospect of heading back through nettle alley traumatised little random to the extent that her lip was in full wibble mode. Instead we struck off over the council fields, veering dangerously every time a play area came into view until a safe route was found back into town.
Aylesbury has been targeted (oh I so wish by an air strike) with some Government (sorry our) money to build a safe transit through the town for cyclists. And it’s good as far as it goes which isn’t far enough. I had that terrifying parental issue of two kids stranded in the road with cars hooning in from opposite directions (my fault all round and properly scary) because a set of pedestrian lights were “out of order”. And have been for three weeks.
Just when I thought there was a good chance I’d be returning home with both children – neither of which required any treatment that couldn’t be found in the Ice Cream bucket, Random decided the simplest way to avoid a pedestrian on the shared cycleway would be to drop off the curb and ride into the busy road.
My bike has more scars from being hastily chucked at the concrete while I dove incautiously into a head of traffic that it ever receives on the trails. Random explained “I couldn’t see anything coming and I didn’t want to stop“. Fair enough and she dropped the curb with some aplomb I couldn’t help proudly noticing between heartbeats of parental terror. But we’re not doing this again for a while, it’s just too bloody dangerous.
Next time, we’re going to make use of the new cycle paths they’ve built in the village and ride into town without attempting any difficult road crossings or aggressive shrubbery. And we’ll stop in the pub on the way back – it’ll almost be like a proper mountain bike ride 🙂