#55: Learn some bike maintenance skills

A couple of weeks ago, Dave and I were cycling in the Forest of Dean when my chain broke. We weren’t carrying any of the right tools, and he had to suffer the indignity of standing by, while I flagged down a passing young man and allowed him to fix my bike for me. The very next day, Dave went out and bought a chain tool, and every possible form of quick link, lest such a thing should ever happen again.

That very weekend, he was biking with mates, and someone’s chain snapped. He was delighted to save the day with his armoury of quick links and the knowhow gained from our previous misfortune. Pride was restored. A godsend!

But then imagine, simply imagine, my delight, when today I was biking with a different male friend and his chain snapped, and I had the right kit in my bag for the job! Here I am, affixing the new link to the old chain, in insufferably smug fashion!
bike maintenance
The oddest thing is, I have never known a chain to break among any of my cycling acquaintance in the last 10 years! All the people I ever bike with are now signed up to a maintenance course in May!

#52: Go biking in the dark

It is often hard to galvanise myself to go out biking even during the day.  Even though I know I will like it!  But somehow the temptation to sit on my arse always has a greater pull.  And that is doubly the case, when I am already in my pyjamas, it is 9.30pm, and cold and dark outside.

So I am particularly pleased a) that I gathered myself to do it, and b) that it was marvellous!   It was quite liberating to be out, alone, in the dark, cycling by torchlight along the paths round the lakes.  Visibility was reduced to where the torch was pointing, so it wasn’t exactly scenic, but kind of dramatic in a different way. The sounds were more noticeable.  The bird calls, and the sound of swans wings flapping as they entered the water in flight.   The moonlight sparkling across the lake surface was lovely.  The feel of the breeze and the night air perked me up no end.  It confirmed my suspicion that I spend far too much time indoors.  There is no need to think a day is over just because the sun has set.  I must do this more often!

The whole point, when this went on the list, was that I have been meaning to affix proper lights to my bike for about 3 years.  I have never quite got round to it, and hence can only cycle in the daytime.  And tediously, I still haven’t got round to it, but I’ve managed to tick it off the list by borrowing a powerful head torch and compromising on safety (don’t try this at home children..). 

But now I am even more motivated to sort the bike lights, because it was great! Excellent.

 

#45: Put up our roofrack and bicycles without help

This was immensely tedious and fairly difficult, but ultimately a triumph for women’s lib. One of the perils of married life is that this kind of task just never falls into my remit these days. And I get anxious about losing the ability to do stuff like this for myself. So, cue a very tedious morning messing about with keys and fittings and what not, taking an hour to accomplish something Dave can do in 5 minutes. I have no instinct at all for stuff like this, I can only figure it out by doing it wrong, then doing it differently, and only slightly less wrong, then eventually on about the 6th attempt getting it vaguely right. But I did it, and now I know how to do it again. So hurrah.
roofrack
Then there was the lifting of the bikes onto the car. I can just about manage it, though it is far from comfortable, balancing inside the doorway of the back seats, mountain bike wielded aloft, and try to keep it steady to line up with the rack. Then keep it still with one hand while securing all the straps and locks. But again, it was done without injury, or misadventure to the bike. Et voila:
bikes on car
Getting them off again is harder – undo all straps, hold onto bike and somehow leap backwards out of the car, holding bike aloft, without allowing any part of bike or pedals to scratch car paintwork. It was just about done, but it is unlikely to be mishap-free every time!

But it is good that I can do it. It makes it far more possible to sneak in an adventure during school hours.

#44: Take the children to the beach for a day trip, just me and them. Have fun without spending money

I had a vision for this one. I was going to take my brood to Brean Down, and have a lovely day out in nature, running on beaches, fishing in rock pools, taking photos, observing sea birds, picnicking in the dunes.  How delightful.

Within seconds of being left alone with them, it all went massively awry.

I suggested the beach. Massive excitement. I mentioned an hour in the car to get there. Absolute mutiny and utter refusal. No one would go. They are all well aware that there is a fake beach 5 minutes up the road, and that is where they wanted to be. Nothing else would do. Everyone howled. My resolve weakened.

I wondered though. The downside of the local fake beach is the £10 entry fee, hence it involves spending money. But. What if we cycled in the back way, and thus avoided the car parking charge? That would be a triumph for frugality, and also create an adventure, because the beach is 2 miles from home, and the bikes are very small.   I put the plan to the people in charge. They were mad for it! I stressed the need for unwavering sensible behaviour, as the ride would involve real roads. They assured me they were equal to it. No one would make a fuss about not being at the front. No one would cycle into someone else’s wheels and knock them sideways and giggle about it. No one would have a hissy fit because they couldn’t get up the hill. All would be serene, grown up, and responsible. I beamed at them proudly. What could go wrong?

I cycled at the back, to slow approaching traffic. That inevitably put someone at the front who held but a tenuous grasp on the concept of left and right, making directional control difficult. I stressed the need to stop wherever white lines were painted across the road. This led to multiple unnecessary stops, at any and every form of paintwork, but better too careful than the opposite. We got up the hill. We executed 2 junctions. We were on fire!

bikers 

A mile and a half in though, morale was drooping. A head wind was not helping. The road was long. I called a halt in a layby, and dished out the chocolate.
biking break
I had thought this ride took 10 minutes, and we were already nearly an hour into it.   We sat on some rocks. I delivered my most motivational of pep talks. 3 angry faces stared back at me, unmoved. I promised an icecream upon arrival at the beach. That did the trick. (Though it rather undermined the ‘spend no money’ bit.)

Back on our bikes and on we went. An hour and a half after leaving home, we had achieved the beach.  A triumph!

Immediately upon arrival, all their clothes came off, with scant regard for propriety. We were at the beach after all, and would need our swim suits on. Never mind that it is mid-March, cloudy, and the red flag is flying over the water, a clear hint that swimming is discouraged. But the brood got togged up, and in a fit of ingenuity, took their buckets, began gathering water from the lake, and pouring it into a corner of the sandpit to create a pool big enough to splash in. Various other children were recruited to the project, including, thankfully, a family that we are very good friends with. It was already apparent that my cycling party would not be equal to making the journey home. Luckily I was able to leave the children with the friends while I shot home for the car.   The eldest crashed off her bike while I was absent, landing in a bramble bush and soaking one side of herself in the lake. Many tears. We returned home somewhat chastened by the whole escapade!   Mummy solo day care is not what it once was!  I must be out of practice now they are all at school. But at least I only spent £6!