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.

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. 


Safer Streets Now!

Last weekend’s ride was a 4km loop from the Lido which went through the town centre. Some of our riders were very small, but still very nippy, and we had great fun riding together. After the ride we enjoyed swapping advice on different cycling setups with other families. We had a good turnout from the Reading Cycle Campaign – a group with which we share the common goal of pushing for improved cycling infrastructure in Reading.

Joe Edwards, the chair of RCC, mentioned that he had seen my recent article about Kidical Mass which was published in “Cycle” (from Cycling UK). Cycling UK also shared the article on their Facebook page. The vast majority of responses were enthusiastic and kind, but there were (naturally) a few idiots complaining about kids being “used to make a political point.”

This bamboozled me. The framework in which we all live our lives – what rights and responsibilities we are given, what options there are available to us, what safety we have – is dictated by the politics of our countries. Kids cannot escape the effects of politics. They generally spend a large proportion of their time in government run institutions. They are relatively small and powerless – a teenager who cannot travel safely by bike does not have the option to drive themselves independently. They are the ones who will have to live the longest with the consequences of the action we do or don’t take on climate change. To insist that it is somehow not fair play to make these points is to say quite clearly that you don’t care about them.

So, yes, the families here at Kidical Mass Reading do believe in engaging with our political systems to ask for better for our children. We were therefore delighted to have representation at April’s ride from three different political parties. Labour Cllr John Ennis, who is the lead councillor for climate strategy and transport gave a candid speech at the rally after the ride, in which he asserted that the council is determined to make cycling in Reading easy and safe, and acknowledged that at the moment it often falls short of that goal. He placed the blame largely on the lack of funding available for active infrastructure, and certainly this is part of the story. We were able to offer our thanks that he and his colleagues were able to reinstate (and in some cases improve) the cycling infrastructure on Lower Henley Rd that the council removed earlier this year. Mr 7 used it to ride his own bike to school on Friday, and we are very glad about its return.

Henry Wright, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Reading, also joined us for the ride. Speaking to him afterwards he said that he regularly commutes by bike to work, and he sees that the cycling infrastructure we have is not good enough. He too wants to see a bigger investment in making our streets safe.

Cllr Dave McElroy of the Greens and Cllr James Moore of the Liberal Democrats also joined us, and were brave enough to ride together on our tandem (after an initial test run twenty minutes before the ride). As they were slightly wobbly they stayed near the back of the ride, and as back marker I was able to take the opportunity to point out the wonderful placement of my favourite bollard near Forbury Gardens (more of that sort of thing, please).

Having the two of them on the tandem was a great metaphor for the kind of cross party collaboration that we need to see at all levels of government if we want to see investment, action and change on cycling infrastructure.  If you too think this is important then don’t forget to vote in the local and Police and Crime Commissioner elections on the 2nd May – and please do join us for our next ride on Saturday 18th May.


New Routes and Old Problems

Last year we found that (apart from Christmas) our Winter rides were generally low on numbers. I believe we discussed this and decided that, as much as people love free, fun, family friendly bike rides, they love them slightly less when the weather is freezing.

We clearly forgot that we’d learned this when we scheduled the rides for this year, as between us and Wokingham we’ve had monthly rides between November and January, finishing with a double ride month in February. However, numbers have not been bad at all – last week we started off with 33 (including several new faces), and finished with 38 (thanks to excellent recruitment efforts from the marshals to passing cyclists).

Perhaps this is in part because of how mild February has been to date – the temperatures are in the double digits, daffodils are growing and I am trying not to think about whether or not this is something I should be worrying about from a climate change perspective.

On a positive note, we had a last minute route change – which we’ve had before due to path closures and roadworks (our planner always checks the route in the day or two before the ride). However, this time it was for a very good reason – the route on the North side of the Kennet is finally open. It has been closed for a very long time whilst the area was under construction, to the great frustration of our official route planner Simon Smart (which I have heard about at length, Dear Reader, because he is my husband and we have the best pillow talk, if your definition of “best pillow talk” is chat about cycle lanes).

This is a much easier connection into the centre of town with children than we have previously had from Thames Lido – it avoids several points that require our marshals to be on alert, including cycling alongside Kings Road for a short way after passing the Narrowboat (previously known as the Bel and Dragon), merging out onto Duke Street and cycling past Reading Central Library. It’s now a route to Forbury Gardens that we would consider doing as a family with the kids on their own bikes, whereas before there is no way we would have attempted it outside of a Kidical Mass ride.

The only fly in the ointment is a boom barrier between Chestnut walk and the Abbey archway, where you have to push your bike up onto the pavement without a drop curb and walk around (unless you are four, in which case you can limbo on under the bar – a very rare case of a route being more accessible to kids than adults!). Kidical Mass will be using our voice at the cycle forum to ask the council to look at improving the connectivity here, as it is otherwise a lovely and much needed low traffic route into town from East Reading.

Coming through town we had the usual run ins with rail replacement buses parked on the “no stopping” section of the route past the station (there seem to be some almost permanently stationed there at the moment, which is something of a problem), and the occasional impatient driver who really didn’t see why they shouldn’t drive straight through a group of very young cyclists – all ably managed by our marshals, of course. I would be remiss, of course, if I didn’t mention that most drivers we encountered were friendly and polite.

At the end of the ride the kids had a great time riding around with their new friends – and many of our new faces let us know that they hope to see us for the next ride as they were heading off. We look forward to seeing them (and perhaps you, Dear Reader?) in Wokingham next week on 17th Feb, or in Reading or Wokingham for the Safe Streets Now action ride on 20th April.


Uni-Cycling around

The first bullet point I listed when drafting this write up was a very happy one, “People showed up!” This was not necessarily a given on a freezing mid-January ride on new territory for us, so we were delighted to have around 50 riders present, including several new faces. It’s great when so many families show up to celebrate cycling together, helping children to build confidence and campaigning for better cycling infrastructure. 

The new territory was the University of Reading site. I’m afraid, Dear Reader, that the pun in the title of this article is slightly gratuitous as we did not in fact have any unicyclists join us (though, going for an increase rather than a decrease in wheel count, we did have several tricycles). You will see on the list of upcoming rides that we will be back on the Uni site on Sat 18th May, and many brownie points (if not actual brownies) will be available for anyone who shows up on an actual unicycle, thereby enabling me to use this pun more legitimately.

The 4km route was probably our calmest and easiest to marshal yet, and involved lots of segregated bike paths. Where we were on the roads, they were (at the weekend anyway) very quiet, and the cars that were moving around were relatively slow and calm. We passed several other groups who were clearly out for an afternoon’s ride together. It was great to see how infrastructure like that enables families to get out and ride together even without the friendly Kidical Mass marshals present to keep traffic at bay.

There was only one point on the route we had any issue with, and that was a spot where there were a couple of bollards quite close together on a bridge – most of us could get through but some wider trikes and bikes had to take a slightly longer route around. We’ve flagged this to the university in the hopes that they might be able to make this pinch point a bit more accessible.

The quality of the infrastructure would have been reason enough to want to run a Kidical Mass ride on the university site, but we are also have another link to the University of Reading – they kindly awarded us a community grant last year. This grant has enabled us to ensure we continue to have insurance and relevant safety equipment for the rides, funded the build a bike workshop and helped us to publicise the rides more widely. We are so grateful for their support.

On the subject of insurance, Dear Reader, if you have happened upon this blog and don’t live in Reading and are thinking, “I need to get one of those Kidical Mass things in my home town” (an obvious conclusion after reading about the all the fun we have here in Reading) our own Kat Heath has helped to put together a guide to setting up a ride, which includes instructions on how to affiliate to the UK network of rides and get covered by the insurance:

This was a particularly special ride for Kat as her little one balance biked the whole thing independently – his first one. The younger of our Kidical Mass Interns (Mr 4) also rode on his own pedal bike with me at the back of the ride and helped me to make sure that we didn’t lose anyone. You’d think that after what is for little legs a very long ride that at the finish point they’d want to stop and rest, but nope, most of the kids got back on their bikes to ride around the square. Karen Roberts from Avanti Cycling, who joined us from the ride, organised them into a race and then very liberally declared EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM the winner. “You are the winner of the under 5’s!” “You are the fastest balance biker! “You two are the joint co-winners of the under 10’s category!” Hi-fives all round.

And indeed, as we piled into the pub afterwards with many of our Kidical Mass friends to hold the AGM, elect the committee, and discuss the successes of last year and the plans for this year (more on this in the blog next week), it did feel like at Kidical Mass we can all be winners. I’m looking forward to seeing many of our Kidical Mass friends again (and perhaps you, Dear Reader?) at the next ride on Sunday 4th February, meeting at Thames Lido at 2pm.



In many ways, building a bike is like baking a cake. Whilst lots of the ingredients are likely to be the same for various cakes, there’s always going to be a few different ways of going about it, and while some people may delight in the preparation itself, for others it’s purely the end result that justifies the effort. But whatever the case, I think for most of us, every attempt leaves us feeling a touch of pride and satisfaction when we get to say those three gratifying words ‘I made this’.

So too, for some of the half-a-dozen kids, and mums, at Saturday’s inaugural Build A Bike session, the task of assembling a bike was a process they relished, whilst for others it was really the payoff that would make it all worth it.


First we gathered and weighed our ingredients: we attached dangling handlebars and de-bubble-wrapped our frames, and began to build our bikes from the wheels up. Commence the typical wrestling of tyres, stuffing of tubes, and coaxing of wheels into frames. This happily became a group activity with mums in attendance getting stuck in too, and before long what was previously a pile of bicycle parts was becoming pleasingly bicycle shaped!

Next we mixed our ingredients together: bolting on wheels and setting up brakes had many kids and parents a bit more stretched — as it can be a fiddly job getting everything balanced and quiet at the best of times — but everyone still had a go at tackling it. Some of the more practised amongst the kids were really in their element at this stage, and it was lovely to see some of our attendees find an enthusiasm for bike building that they apparently didn’t have had for other subjects at school.

And so finally, to the baking. And to complete the build came everyone’s favourite: fitting pedals with confusingly topsy-turvy bolt threads (regular righty-tighty on the right, chain-side pedal 🙂, but backwards lefty-tighty on the left pedal 🙃), and the dark art of gears.


Gear-adjustment, whilst pleasantly intuitive once you grasp the core concepts of it, takes some of the same patience as waiting for the magical power of heat to take effect on the ingredients that you’ve so carefully curated into a cake batter. At this stage it’s edible and you could eat it, but if you spend a little longer making sure it’s cooked through and risen, you’ll be glad you waited! Understandably, setting up our gears was a trickier task but still one that some of the kids were interested in learning more about.

After a couple hours of twisting, turning, tightening and tweaking, the anticipation of getting on a working bike and actually taking it for spin was tangible. And so, with our bikes all bicycle shaped and ship-shape, a small amount of huffing and puffing with bike pumps later, and it was time to taste the fruits of our labour and take the bikes out for a ride!


As you’d imagine, it was endlessly rewarding to see a group of kids so eager to go out and ride have a hand in actually putting together their own bikes. Whilst some of the build may have been slightly daunting at times, or perhaps just not of particular interest — after all, not everyone is as besotted with building bicycles as I am! — I think hopefully kids and parents alike left with a bit more confidence in doing some basic bike jobs, and sense that bikes are something that we shouldn’t worry too much about when they have problems, because more likely than not, and sometimes with a guiding hand, they’re things that we can fix and feel self-empowered by in the process.

Disclaimer: any comparison between bikes and cakes is purely for illustrative purposes, please do not attempt to put bikes in the oven or consume any bike parts or products no matter how delicious they may appear!


A Kidical-Christ-Mass ride

I have very good memories of the Kidical Mass Christmas ride last year. We often expect lower turnouts in the cold months, but December was an exception and lots of families turned up to ride with Santa. The weather, though cold, was clear and the sunshine beamed down on us.

I’d love to say that we had similar luck this year  – in which case this article would perhaps twist towards claiming that the universe is clearly on our side and in favour of us campaigning for safer bike lines and helping kids build confidence on the rides whilst building a community of cycling families. However, I’m afraid, Dear Reader, that the day started out looking like the universe was kindly giving us a chance to prove our dedication to the cause.

The weather forecast had deteriorated overnight and looked totally miserable. Heavy rain was predicted for the whole afternoon, with the possibility of temperatures that were close to freezing. There were many messages flying around the WhatsApp groups as we tried to work out how best to weather proof an outdoor bike ride for an unknown number of children. Several people collected up all the spare gloves they owned to bring with them (it’s surprising how many gloves one child can accumulate, though mine now mostly own many many single gloves rather than pairs). There was very little shelter at our planned end point (Thames Lido) so we discussed a change of route to a shorter ride that could finish at Forbury gardens (which is a short walk from the Lido but a rather longer bike ride if you don’t want to navigate the Vastern Road roundabout), where the now-renovated bandstand would offer somewhere dry to stand. We battle planned how to make the hot chocolate mobile, as having promised it in all our communications we didn’t want to let any children (or adults!) down.

In the end, however, we got pretty lucky with the weather as the worst of the rain held off and the temperature did lift. Perhaps the universe is on our side and wants better for Reading!

I think everyone else was reading a different (and more accurate!) weather forecast to us, as we had one of the best turnouts we’ve had to date. Just under 70 riders showed up to ride with Santa and his elves. Santa rode at the front on a tandem with ride leader Simon, and the marshals were identifiable not only by their hi-vis vests but also by their reindeer antlers. The children were delighted to see Santa, and of course he had to say hello to most of them (with many hi-fives exchanged) before we set off.

Santa and kid doing a high-five

I had another issue that almost made me late for the ride, which was that my kids decided they ABSOLUTELY HAD to wear their elf hats. These do not fit over a bike helmet, so I was in our kitchen duct taping hats to helmets and muttering “argh, we’re going to be late,” just fifteen minutes before the ride. Thankfully the kids were pretty motivated to get there in time and see Santa, so we positively flew over Christchurch Bridge and along the towpath (with due care for pedestrians, of course) to join the crowd.

I think we made quite a spectacle riding through town, with many people stopping to watch, take photos and smile and wave. The younger Kidical Mass Intern (Mr just-turned-4) did the first part of the ride on his own bike then came up onto mine at the back of the ride when he got tired. I tasked him with calling out “Merry Christmas” to the people and town, which he did in between yelling, “Look! I’m an Elf!” He got a very high hit rate on friendly replies.

At Forbury gardens Santa’s grown-up elf set up shop to do free bike maintenance for anyone who’s bike needed a tune up. I was personally particularly grateful for his patience with Mr 4 who hung round persistently determined to chat to his fellow elf about all things North Pole related – he got some quite inventive answers!

Santa's elf fixing a bike

Santa congratulated all the children on how well they had ridden and passed out presents (bells, lights and reflectors) and a little book that we’d put together as a sort of Christmas card from us to the kids (see next week!). We plied them with hot chocolate and cake and then quite a lot of them decided that what they really wanted to be doing after a long, damp, cold bike ride was to… ride their bikes around Forbury Gardens. I love the energy that children bring (except when they’re mine, at bedtime, when I would rather they bought a little less of it!)

All in all, it was a very successful and happy ride, and I’m feeling all Christmassy after it. So I know it’s a little early, but I’ll take this opportunity to wish for a very happy Christmas season to all of the Kidical Mass People – the kids, the grown ups, the marshals and the organising team. You’re all brilliant!

Hot chocolate being served by a freezing Kat

If you missed out on this ride (or even if you didn’t) don’t forget our next rides: Wokingham will be holding a ride on Saturday 16th December at 2pm, meeting at Elms Field. The next ride in Reading will be around the university campus at 2pm on Sunday 14th January.


Glowing to the pub

If you were paying attention last week you may have seen that Kidical Mass and friends made the local news (radio and TV) with our “Light up the Night Ride” where over 30 cyclists rode through town together after dark. We were all lit up like Christmas trees (figuratively in some cases and literally in others – my bike and several others were sporting sets of fairy lights).

 The point of our ride was threefold:

  1. To highlight the benefit of being well lit.
  2. To highlight the need for cycling infrastructure which is well lit (it’s a double whammy for female cyclists if cycle paths feel dark and deserted in Winter)
  3. To have fun!

(I feel I would be remiss, having mentioned that well lit bikes are safer than poorly lit ones, to not also mention that black cars statistically get into more accidents than bright ones. Do with that information what you will, drivers of Reading – I’d personally love to see more yellow coloured cars on the roads, they’re very cheering.)

To further ensure that aim 3 was achieved, the end point for the ride was the Fisherman’s Cottage, a lovely pub on the Kennet which has lots of railings outside to secure bikes to, and happened to have live music that evening. The ride itself was great fun. We took in some important local landmarks, including the Oracle riverside (where we rode slowly and in single file at walking pace around pedestrians who gave us lots of waves and smiles – thank you!) and of course the completed parts of the new bike lane on Shinfield Road – it was lovely to be in our own space.

A complaint that’s often heard about cyclists (when we are forced to share space with motorists) is that we are slow and therefore get in the way of emergency vehicles. At one point on the ride we heard a siren and saw blue lights behind us. We had managed to get all 30+ of us to the side of the road and out of the way before the cars behind us had also managed to get out of the way to let the ambulance past them. There are certain advantages to being very narrow on the road. The ambulance breezed straight past us with a wave to the ride leader.

The ride was co-organised and promoted by Reading Cycle Campaign and Avanti Cycling. As it was a ride for adults, the route used busier and faster roads than we would on a Kidical Mass ride, and I was grateful to the very experienced riders from those groups who helped us to hold the lane where it wasn’t safe for motorists to pass the group (some, of course, did try). Still, most motorists were calm and friendly and waved as the group passed them. I think we were quite a festive sight! As Kat mentioned in her radio interview, most cyclists are nice people and most motorists are nice people and by and large we all want each other to be able to get where we are going in a safe and timely fashion.

At the pub, we set the world to rights by chatting all things bikes – the different groups were swapping stories of plans they have coming up (our build-a-bike workshop idea was met with much enthusiasm). As I expected, our kids were the only kids on the ride (they went on the triplet at the front with my husband and I was at the back yelling at him over our helmet headsets if they started going too fast for the group), but they had a grand old time chatting bikes and being included in all the conversations. Littlest even asked to stay and doze in my lap rather than going home at bedtime with his grandfather as had been the original plan. Ah, the joys of a Friday evening with no school the next day!

Many thanks to everyone who joined us – I hope we see you again next year!


Santa on a bike

On Sunday 26th November Santa Claus is coming to town (Reading, to be precise) on a bike. Last Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed R(e)i(n)d(e)er gave Santa a sleigh ride in his bike. This year Santa and Rudolph will lead the Kidical Mass Reading ride on a tandem. The people of Reading are hereby invited to join them for a fun, free and family friendly bike ride.

Come as reindeer, elves, or just as you are, as our marshals help us ride safely through the town. Remember to wrap up warm, especially your hands, feet and ears, so that you don’t end up feeling as cold as Frosty the Snowman. Bring your best jingle bells, and we’ll bring the tunes, and we’ll be riding and rocking around the Christmas tree in the town centre together.

Santa will bring a small present for every child, and after the ride, though we can’t provide mistletoe and wine for the adults (you’ll have to find that when you’re safely home if you’re so inclined), the Lido have very kindly offered to provide free hot chocolate for the children. One of Santa’s elves will join us to offer minor bike repairs and to show the children how to check their brakes and gears.

We will meet on bikes on Sunday 26th November at Thames Lido at 2pm. Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult. We will ride a 5km circular route at the pace of the slowest rider, suitable for anyone on two (or three) wheels, from small children to grandparents. Hopefully after the exercise and the excitement we will all have a silent night!

Kidical Mass Reading exists to help children have fun on bikes, and to highlight the need for cycling infrastructure that works for children. All I want for Christmas is you all being able to ride safely through our town every day, not just when our marshals are present to protect you.

If you miss Santa at the Reading ride he will be visiting Wokingham on Saturday 16th December, meeting at Elms Field at 2pm.

For details of further rides, or for updates in extreme weather (e.g. an early white Christmas), find us here at or on Facebook under Family Cycling Reading.

We wish you a merry Christmas!


In this article there are 12 (sometimes not very well) hidden Christmas song titles. Can you find them all?

Reveal the song names
  • Santa claus is coming to town
  • Last Christmas
  • Rudolf the Red nose reindeer
  • Sleigh ride
  • Frosty the snowman
  • Jingle bells
  • Rocking around the Christmas tree
  • Mistletoe and wine
  • Silent night
  • All I want for Christmas is you
  • White Christmas
  • We wish you a merry Christmas

Sept 2023 Kidical Mass action weekend

Last weekend saw us back on the route of our first ever Kidical Mass, Palmer Park to Forbury Gardens. We’ve been focusing more on circular routes recently, and I hadn’t realised how long we’d been away. When I asked the younger Kidical Mass intern (Mr 3) if he remembered starting rides there, he said no. I suppose just under a year is a long time when you’re three years old!

Speaking of growing, the Kidical Mass movement in the UK is certainly doing just that. Across this September over 30 Kidical Mass rides and bike buses have been recorded, with more than 3,000 participants – at least double the numbers from April. Here in Reading over 40 people came to our ride (which was only two weeks after the last ride), including Cllr Rob White from Reading and Cllr Al Neal from Wokingham. It’s heartening to think that there are so many people out there who share our aims – safe streets and children who are confident to ride on them, in families who are supported by a cycling community.

For our family, this was a very special ride, as it was the first time our three year old has been able to ride his own bike. We took the recommended approach to teaching him to ride – put him on a balance bike first to learn to steer, then when he was ready we added in pedals. This is the opposite to how I learned (pedals first, with stabilizers, that came off later, so I learned to steer properly quite late in the process). I can see why the balance bike route is recommended!

To be honest, Mr 3 has been ready to ride at least part of the route with Kidical Mass for a month or two now, but with Simon and I involved in organising the rides we have needed him on our bikes so we can keep track of him. This time we had a much-beloved grandfather with us who agreed to man mark him. Mr 3 made it all the way along the Kennet before he asked me to pick him up. At the end of it he was very pleased with himself – and so were we!

The weather this time round was great, and it was lovely watching the children play together in Forbury gardens after the ride. The adults, however, had a bit more of a serious conversation. The Kidical Mass Organisers WhatsApp group has had much to say recently on the subject of the new school (River Academy) being built by Rivermeads, and the routes that children will take to it, especially from Caversham. Between the river and the road and the big roundabout there’s a lot of hazards, and we’d like to see these mitigated. If you agree, please do sign our petition.

In that post ride conversation, Nick (our marshal who brings a cowbell to the rides) showed us all how to use a throw rope – one of the things that would help is if the council installed these along the river. He also talked about the danger of cold shock, and how if you fall into water the best thing to do is to float “like a starfish” for a minute or so until your body adjusts. So now we all know that safety advice, and so do you, Dear Reader.

Assuming, however, that we all manage to stay safely out of the river, our family is looking forward to attending the next Kidical Mass ride – all four of us on our own bikes again as the Wokingham team are organising this one. Sat 7th Oct, 2pm, Elms Field. See you there!