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!

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.


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.