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.