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Next rides

Our next rides

Save the dates for our next Kidical Mass events, in Reading and Wokingham. No need to book: just turn up and enjoy a safe, family-friendly, joyful ride with us.

Sat 10th August, 2pm in Wokingham

Summer picnic ride 🧺 from Elms Fields Playground.

Sun 8 Sep, 12pm in Reading

Circular ride from the Reading Cycling Festival in Christchurch Meadows

Sun 20th October, 2pm, Halloween rides 🎃
Sun 1st December, 2pm in Reading

Christmas ride 🎅 — circular ride from the Thames Lido

Sun 15th December, 2pm in Wokingham

Christmas ride 🎅 — circular ride from Elms Fields Playground.

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Ride

July 2024 ride

A summer ride ☀️ with a very wet forecast 🌧️ but we managed to avoid the rain miraculously!

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Ride

Kidical Mass at Wokingham Bikeathon

A warm and sunny day, finally! Around 60 riders and one dog turned up at the Bikeathon for the Kidical Mass ride. Our stand stood among others supporting the Bikeathon – everything we took with us reached the site by bike.

After a briefing and donning Kidical Mass stickers on our t-shirts amongst a plethora of stickers from other stalls our group headed off around the park.

Some of the smaller balance bikers continued round the park to find the finish, whilst the rest headed out onto the roads, ringing our bells and donning smiles as we cycled.

Most Wokingham children are walking around with credit cards – they are Beat the Street and encourage travelling by walking or bike to touch beat boxes. We had two on our route and one had double points for the ride! We regrouped and most climbed off their bikes and touched the boxes.

Before we knew it we were cycling through the Bikeathon finishing line to ringing cow bells and lots of cheer with 2.5 miles behind us.

Cake and tattoos were waiting!

Thank you to everyone who joined us, I was very impressed by the skills, confidence and how sensible some of the littlest riders were – my 3 year old pedalled a Kidical Mass ride for the first time which I am extremely proud of.

See you next time:

  • in Reading for our Summer ride ☀️
    Sun 7th July, 2pm from Tutu’s in Palmer Park
  • in Wokingham for our Summer picnic ride 🧺
    Sat 10th August, 2pm from Elms Fields (check the Facebook event)
Categories
Life on bikes

Get your body moving!

One of the things about being responsible for small people, and liking a quiet life, is that I have become a lot more conscious of what a human body needs in order to function. All of us need sufficient food, drink, sleep and movement. Nine times out of ten when one of the kids has a meltdown and we run through this basic needs checklist, there’s a contributing factor. The kids are even starting to be able to recognise this in themselves, which makes conversations about early nights after difficult days a lot smoother.

If I’m honest, I’m much better at managing this for the kids than I am for myself. When the kids were small and waking up several times in the night, the biggest challenge was sleep (for everyone, but especially the grown ups!). At least as babies they could always be relied upon to nap in a bike seat, a fact we made copious use of during lockdown when we needed to get the baby to nap three times a day, manage our own exercise, and make time to play with the preschooler. It was a constant multitasking exercise in trying to make sure that the ways we were spending our time were meeting different needs for different people simultaneously.

Thankfully now they are older sleep is much less of an issue. In a packed week, the first thing that slips is movement for me. Given a choice between clean clothes for everyone the following day or a walk in the sunshine it often doesn’t feel like much of a choice. This is one of the reasons I’m glad that we are a family that cycles – doing the school run by bike builds a bit of movement into my day every day and helps keep me happy.

I’m grateful too to see the boys starting to set good habits of their own. Young children naturally move a lot through the course of the day, but I can see that as they get older there will be far more demands on their time in terms of school, homework and other focused activities that require them to sit still for many hours a day. Like us, they will have to become a lot more intentional about making time to move their bodies.

Our current school run is about a 10km round trip. When my husband is taking them, he uses an acoustic triplet, which means the kids are able to be active too. I am less strong, and less confident in balancing them if they wriggle, so I ride an electric long tail with a super low centre of gravity, where they are just passengers. But Fridays are special – we have a bit more slack in the schedule and Mr Seven is allowed to ride his own bike to school if he’s ready early enough. We never have to nag him to get going on a Friday morning!

I’m hopeful that when they are teenagers getting about by bicycle will be second nature to them.  We’re taking a multi pronged approach to safety – they will have been riding on our bikes and observing our road positioning for years, we will help them plan the safest way between the places they want to go, and we are campaigning (through Kidical Mass) for better connected cycle routes across Reading.

And, who knows, maybe one day they might have little people of their own and find themselves struggling to meet everyone’s basic needs with a newborn around. Perhaps they will be grateful to find (from the other side) that a bike ride is a great way to get a baby to nap whilst its parent also gets some exercise.

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Life on bikes

Topics to avoid at the dinner table

Somewhere along the line growing up I learned that there are some topics that it’s impolite to discuss in casual conversation – most notably religion and politics.  To those weighty items I would also add that I am reticent to discuss my feelings as a cyclist about road safety. I have STRONG feelings on the subject, and I do not want to subject my (lovely, well meaning) driving friends to a breathless tirade. So, Dear Reader, I thought I’d subject you to it instead (since you are here voluntarily and can leave when you like).

  1. Remember how vulnerable cyclists are. The best visual I ever saw explaining safe passing distances first showed a hand being slammed down hard on a table close to a hammer, and then showed the reverse. 🫱🔨 Only one of those things made me wince, and I bet you would have the same reaction. The cyclist is the hand, your car is the hammer.  Don’t risk our lives just because it feels safe to you inside your car to be that close to us.
  2. Be a bit more chilled out about cyclists when you’re driving. I particularly hate pulling up Peppard Road going away from the Last Crumb. The road there is not wide enough for a car to safely pass a cyclist (you can tell this, Dear Rider, because the separate bike lane doesn’t start until a little further up). The number of drivers who CANNOT BEAR to wait twenty seconds to get to a safe passing place is ridiculous (I am better now than I used to be at road positioning to stop this happening). Yet, when it is other cars (instead of bicycle traffic) causing the (much longer!) delay coming down that road they all manage to queue nicely without trying to rear end each other.
  3. If you are in a SUV and you cannot generally give safe passing room when overtaking cyclists, then get yourself into a narrower car. There’s no need to hog that much of the road. Same goes for the drivers coming down Peppard Road who feel the need to keep one set of wheels permanently in the bike lane, thereby making it unusable. Almost all of our road space is allocated to cars, stop stealing the little that isn’t.
  4. Always, ALWAYS look all around you before pulling away from stationary. It gives me a little mini heart attack every time I see a car lurch forward then stop just before hitting something as the driver clearly decided to do their mirrors check AFTER they started moving. That should never happen.
  5. Stop parking your car on pavements and in bike lanes. ESPECIALLY on Henley Road where all the houses have massive driveways and many schoolchildren commute along the path. If you don’t have the fine control of your car to manoeuvre it safely into your driveway please turn in your driving licence immediately.

I suppose I don’t say these things to my friends because they are all lovely, well meaning people. However, I also suppose every driver who has ever close passed me, or undercut me on a roundabout, or parked their car in a bike lane or on a pavement is probably in most circumstances a lovely, well meaning person with lot of friends. Perhaps if it became more acceptable to talk about these things we would see less of them.

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People

The people behind KM — Alex

What is your current family bike setup?

I’ve got a couple of bikes. For a long time I used to ride a Charge fixed gear bike I bought on eBay, but as my commute has changed (and my fitness has declined!) and includes more hills I’ve invested in a geared touring bike.

When the kids were very little I used a Burley Bee cycle chariot and a front seat to take them both to nursery, but as they’ve got older and we live near their school I no longer have that set up. It’s a shame as they used to enjoy the journey and it was very satisfying cycling pass the cars going nowhere in the rush hour traffic jam on the Reading road, and the slightly unorthodox set up was always a talking point with parents in the car park.  

How does cycling fit into your life?

I use a bike to commute to work and for local journeys. As both myself and my wife work, this allows us to only own one car, which is a big plus given that we don’t have any off road parking at home. 

The kids cycle, although we live within a short walk of their school and so don’t need the bikes on a day-to-day basis. 

Why did you get involved in Kidical Mass?

I started cycle commuting (and subsequently got more into cycling) when I moved to Reading in 2010 and have been a member of the Reading cycle campaign (RCC) since then. A few years later we moved to Wokingham and I got involved with the Wokingham Active Travel Campaign (WATCH).

It was at a RCC meeting that I heard Kat talk about Kidical Mass and how she wanted to set it up locally, I was really impressed with her drive and enthusiasm and the idea of Kidical Mass, as a way of getting a broader cross section of people (beyond the Lycra MAMILs) out on bikes and so got her details. I helped marshal some of the early Reading rides and really enjoyed the fun and support that can sometimes be absent at cycling events (not all!) I have attended in the past.

WATCH had been looking for a cycle event we could put on in Wokingham and after chatting with Kat, we agreed that we would run a Wokingham ride every other month under the Reading (and Wokingham) Kidical Mass umbrella. 

What is your role in Kidical Mass?

I am one of the organisers of the Wokingham KM events and try and help out with many of the Reading events as I can get to.

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Report

A community ride

Last weekend the University of Reading held its annual community festival, and Kidical Mass Reading (and our own community) had a stall and ran a ride. We were delighted to be back on the university site, which has a great network of quiet roads and off road paths. In terms of planning how to marshal the rides, it’s definitely the easiest location we use and I would thoroughly recommend it for a weekend family bike ride.

We had hoped that our route would be a able to briefly leave the site to take in part of the new bike lane on Shinfield Road, but sadly some road works popped up a few days before the ride rendering it temporarily usable. That was a shame, as it is a nice bike lane. However, it did mean that the whole route was very low traffic and the drivers we encountered were very patient and calm. Generally traffic tends to move slowly around the university site, which I’m sure is good for everyone’s stress levels!

Leaflets galore

Our stand was shared with Reading Cycle Campaign and Avanti Cycling (who run the Bikeability training in schools). This meant that we had an abundance leafleting material, in addition to the Kidical Mass flyers, stickers and temporary tattoos. We also had two Super Keen preschoolers who were determined to carry on distributing stickers and post ride until they were all gone, despite their parents best attempts to get them to move on towards lunchtime. (Yes, Dear Reader, one of them was Mr 4). The stall was manned throughout the afternoon to continue spreading the word about cycling in Reading.

Dr Bike DrBiking

One of Mr 4’s birthday presents last year was a kickstand for his bike, and whilst we were waiting for the ride to start he decided to use it as a makeshift turbo trainer, balancing the bike on it and pedalling backwards. It isn’t really designed to take that kind of weight so it ended up pointing off at a completely random angle. Dr Bike (aka Santa’s Elf) was positioned next to our festival stand. He is adored by Mr 4, who was delighted to have a repair to request (the kickstand was very quickly and easily realigned). After the ride it looked like there were a fair few people bringing their bikes for tune ups, and it’s great to see that service being used.

Three balance bikes on a single picture!

With the new location came some new faces on the ride, including a few slightly bigger balance bikers – a great sign that their families had done the research on how to teach a child to ride a bike. The stabilisers I remember from my childhood are not currently the recommended approach. They completely change how a bike behaves (you cannot steer by shifting your weight), and when the stabilisers are removed the child then has to relearn how to control their bike. Rather it’s suggested that everyone starts with a balance bike, which steers in the same way as a pedal bike does. For bigger children a pedal bike can be temporarily transformed into balance bike by removing the pedals and lowering the saddle. It was great to have some kids riding in this manner out with us, and they did brilliantly at covering the distance. Scooting a bike is rather harder work than pedalling!

If you missed out on this wonderful community fuelled ride, then please do join us for one of the ones coming up:

  • the next Wokingham ride will be on Sunday 23rd June
  • the next Reading one will take place on Sunday 7th July.
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Ride

May 2024 ride

Ride in the Reading Campus, for the University of Reading community festival – very well attended with 50 people at the start, and no rain!

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Life on bikes

A bicycle made for two

April’s ride featured two councillors from different parties riding on our tandem, Daisy. Daisy is the only bike in our family “fleet” that has a name that’s stuck. She’s been with us longest, and, although (or perhaps because) she was bought second hand about two decades ago when we were both fresh faced students, she’s probably the bike I’m most emotionally attached to.

It’s been a while since I rode on her – at the moment “my” seat is usually configured to bring the pedals high enough for a four year old, which means if I tried to ride her it wouldn’t be very comfortable! Seeing two adults on her bought back memories from our earliest days of cycling together, when there were only two of us, and I was rather less keen.

Hilary and Simon looking young and in love

It was the early 2010s. My then-boyfriend had convinced me to try out camping (a first for me, I came from a decidedly indoorsy family). He had found a suitable campsite in Dorset and suggested we get there by a combination of National Express bus and bicycle. I nervously agreed, on the basis that he would be in charge of logistics and route planning.

Travelling by coach with the tandem was an…interesting…affair. The bike had to be dismantled and the pieces wrapped in bubble wrap before it could be loaded into the coach hold, which added a fair amount of time to the journey. Even more interesting, however, was the route between the coach stop and the campsite.

I suppose I should have been concerned when my partner showed me his printed out map and explained his plan. “Look, it’s suggested three cycling routes. The first is long and flat, the third is short and hilly, and the second is somewhere in between. But LOOK there is another route which it hasn’t found which is even shorter so we’re going to do that.”

(Yes, Dear Reader, this is the man who currently plans the Kidical Mass Reading routes. I promise he has developed some common sense in the last decade and a half).

I think my favourite part of the journey (at least now that it’s just a fun story from the past) was when, having just pushed the bike up a long 17% hill on foot, we stopped in a village to check directions for the rest of the journey. The lady looked at us, and, like a character in a sitcom, just shook her head and said, “Ooo, I wouldn’t have come this way.”

Simon and the 2 boys on the tandem

Nevertheless, both we and (spoiler) our relationship survived the trip. We had a lovely holiday, and amended our bus ticket home to go from a stop closer to the campsite. After that experience, any bicycle camping we have done with the kids have been (a) actually glamping, not camping, (b) combining trains+bikes not buses+bikes and (c) had me on my cargo e-bike. But, hey, maybe as the kids get bigger we’ll get more adventurous.

For now the tandem mostly gets use ferrying Mr 4 to and from his Friday afternoon Kindermusik class. But one day, when the kids are bigger, it will be converted back to two adults permanently. I imagine my husband and I will still have a use for good old Daisy long after the kids have left home and the newer, shinier, kid carrying bikes have found a new home.

I don’t, however, think I will ever again agree to a tandem bike camping trip in Dorset.

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Report

April 2024 Wokingham ride

With a few weeks to go, April’s Wokingham Kidical Mass looked like it might not happen…

The April ride was planned to coincide with the national Safer Streets Now (SSN) action day on 20th April. This gave us the benefit of cycling in support of two great causes (Kidical Mass and SSN) but meant we couldn’t rely on our Reading KM neighbours for support as they were running their own ride on the same day

This combined with the absence of several of our regular marshals, meant we considered cancelling the event, however as is so often the way we were lucky (thanks to Natalie and Danny) to find 4 volunteers who kindly stood in to marshal and allowed the ride to go ahead. 

The weather was better than it had been  over the previous week (no rain), although there was a cold wind and arriving at the traditional starting point in Elms field at around 13.40 and finding no other cyclists in sight, I did wonder if we might not need those marshals after all!

Around 13.50, people started arriving, a recumbent cyclist who had come over from Bracknell was the first to arrive and after that the path along the park started to fill up. 

We cycled the usual circular route with the highlight being the ride down Denmark street through the town centre. Maybe it was just me, but it felt like the reception and waving we had this time around was the best I have ever seen, and the noise from the bells was definitely louder than I remember!

We had about 30 riders on the main ride and about 5 minutes after we arrived back at the finish in Elms field, we saw a family of 4 coming in. They had arrived a few minutes late and missed us at the start but had been picked up by the partner and son of one of our regular marshals, who were also late and had gone round with them! 

As is the tradition now, we had delicious home made cake provided by Lyme and caught up with people who are now familiar faces as the Wokingham rides head towards its second anniversary. 

So the April ride did happen and cycling home I reflected on what makes these things a success. It’s the people – the marshalls who give up their time (at the last minute in our case) and the attendees who prioritise coming even when the weather is bad. It’s all those people who waved and even cheered as we came down Denmark street and its the 99% of car drivers who were lovely (and mostly always are…)

Thank you all for making Kidical Mass what it is.