Well it is when the accessory is a child’s bike seat (fitted by yours truly) and the person riding hasn’t been on a bicycle for the best part of 15 years.
At the start of the New Year I wrote about the difference bicycles can and do make to people’s lives, the freedom and possibilities that two wheeled travel can bring. Combine this with factors such as cost saving in these times of ruinous petrol prices, let alone the benefits to health, fitness, happiness and well-being. With so many positives, the question is why wouldn’t you ride a bike?
It’s something I get a tad enthusiastic about as you may have picked up on. And friends and family have learned to listen patiently, albeit with a slight rolling of the eyes, or else to quietly leave the room when the subject of cycling arises.
But……I’m slowly converting the dis-believers, the apathetic and the undecided.
Take my family for example….since becoming a mum back in 2013 my Little Sister (LS) has been warming to the idea of cycling as both a way of keeping fit and of entertaining the perpetual bundle of energy which is my niece.
However, having not ridden a bicycle since her teens she was less than confident about riding, especially with a baby on board. Riding in traffic was also a scary prospect, as was her childhood bike, rusty and cobwebbed at the back of the shed.
Never one to shy away from a challenge I began my campaign of not-so-subtle hints such as overhauling her ancient Raleigh bike and buying a child’s bike seat for Christmas. She was also inspired by mutual friends, other new mums, such as Vicky Myers who’d been stylishly tackling the logistics of getting babies on bicycles.
With winter finally giving way to some spring sunshine and the lighter evenings in situ, we spent an exciting (as in, why do I still have all these bolts left over) half hour fitting the child seat to the freshly spruced up bike.
Then it was test time……
Not having ridden a bike for some time, especially not with a baby on the back, it was considered a good idea all round that LS have a test ride or two, teddy bear riding shotgun. After an initial wobble around the cul-de-sac where she lives LS was looking confident, smiling even.
“That saying about being like riding a bike” she exclaimed “It’s true, you really don’t forget!!”
On a success high we decide something is needed to simulate the weight of a baby. A search through the kitchen cupboards drew a blank until, in the back of one, we unearthed a near full bag of cat-litter – perfect (or purrrrfect –groan).
With the kitty litter duly strapped in placed we then proceeded to give it a tour of the local roads, with the odd disturbed look from car drivers.
It was a break through and momentum was building in the family. My Brother in Law, not to be left behind had also unearthed his childhood bike. Some great mechanical practice for me getting it running again, and a few days later on a stunningly sunny Easter weekend we gathered outside with the shiny, clean bikes, stupidly excited to be heading out for an inaugural family bike ride.
The mission nearly aborted however when the combined efforts of 3 adults, possessing an embarrassing number of psychology degrees between them, failed to persuade my 2 year old niece to the virtues of her new cycling helmet. No amount of putting it on teddy seemed to be doing the trick, however, when she stepped outside and saw her bike seat the world changed.
Until now she’s been using the seat as a mini-armchair, but she loved sitting in it. Seeing it on the bike she couldn’t wait to get in, in fact we couldn’t strap her in (or the helmet on) fast enough.
Wheeling her gently down the driveway, she gripped the sides of the seat tightly, all adults slightly nervous about her reaction.
No need. After an initial pedal to the end of the road she was laughing and waving. Bouncing up and down with impatience when we stopped and imperiously kicking the sides like a horse’s flanks urging us to go faster.
So, with adults mounted, for the first ride in many years for both LS and Brother in Law and with me in charge of the baby bike(!!) we set off out of the cul-de-sac and straight on to a local bike path.
As we headed out, it was glorious. The sun was shining, my niece was in her element, so much to see and experience she was happily waving to dog walkers, cows, birds, anyone. Even the adults were enjoying themselves – comments such as “I can’t believe I haven’t done this for so long, it’s amazing”
I was actually quite choked up with emotion and proud to watch my little family pedalling along, genuinely delighted to have discovered (or rediscovered) the joys of simple cycling and having such a good time.
An hour later, everyone arrives home intact and grinning, and I feel my mission here has been completed. Rolling off into the afternoon like some kind of odd, bicycling caped-crusader, I now have my sights set on other people to convert and I confess there is something in the pipeline, something which promises to be big!
Watch this space.