I took Dexter to school this morning as usual and got home at 9am. I sat down on my sofa, which seemed even more comfortable today, and had to make the decision whether I would stay at home and work all day (as usual), or … attend the organised bike ride I’d stupidly signed up for the day before.
I say ‘stupidly’, it wasn’t stupid, it was just a spur of the moment decision that I hadn’t really thought through.
I had initially gone to the Sky Ride website to see if there were any groups in my area, knowing full well that I’d already checked, and there aren’t. I think I just felt better for at least ‘trying’ to do something new. Except this time, I managed to find a ride local to me that sounded perfect.
It’s not actually run by Sky Ride because they don’t offer any rides anywhere near to where I live, but I don’t think that’s necessarily their fault, moreover it’s a case of the council not having the budget to pay them.
Anyway, the ride looked perfect. It would be an hour long and cover 5 miles but, more importantly, it was ranked as an ‘easy’ ride.
You see, I’ve tried hard to encourage Dexter to enjoy riding, and I’m sure if the ride home from school was all flat, he’d be much more inclined not to moan but he’s 10, and 10 year olds moan A LOT. And so I have found myself cycling to school with him less and less and I’m missing out. To give him his dues, once I had pointed out how much time I spend facilitating one of his major passions, football, he’s been less moany … but I think that’s as good as it’s going to get.
So I could either miss out, struggle to find the time to go out on my own, or, the third option that I hadn’t really thought about before, join a cycling club.
So that’s what I did. I just signed up. Simple.
The hard bit was finding the motivation and courage to turn up!
We were due to meet at a local country park that is a 20 minute, downhill cycle away, so it’s not too far, but I was a bit worried that a) no one else would show and b) if they did, it would be really cliquey and I’d feel left out.
Let me just rewind back to me sitting on the sofa at 9am. I could have stayed at home all day and not gone to the cycling club but my positive inner voice seems to always outweigh the negative one these days (that’s listening to my slimpod) … and so the conversation in my head didn’t last long and within ten minutes, I’d had a wee, put my trainers and eleventy billion layers on, and I was off!
I arrived ten minutes early and no-one was there. Thankfully, I saw a flash of fluorescent pink and figured out that this was a fellow rider. The lady in pink, Ivy, is 72 and fit as a fiddle and we instantly got on. Another older guy was there, who was in fact one of the volunteer group leaders ‘employed’ by the council and we had one more cyclist turn up, another group leader, who is also the council’s schools ‘Bikeability’ examiner.
A few forms filled in and we were off! We took a route that takes you along the River Medway and the sun was shining … at least to start with.
Two minutes into our ride, and Ivy and Pete had cycled ahead, which left myself and Mark bringing up the proverbial rear. In front of us were two massive concrete bollards that we’d have to manouevre … OR, we could cycle up a very small, but very steep hill. Mark chose the hill and sped up to gain momentum. I was right behind him. Unfortunately, he hadn’t see the big rock that was sticking out at the top which had forced him to stop, but by then, it was too late for me. I was already halfway up the hill and tried my best to brake, but the brambles on the left, and the wet mud underneath, made it impossible.
Sure enough, I fell right off my bike.
Getting back up and back on the bike was like a scene from Laurel & Hardy. Every time I tried to stand up, the weight of the bike on the mud pulled me back down. Of course, Mark had ridden on without realizing what a mess I was making of it – we were, after all, only two minutes into the ride! Two pedestrians, who were walking the other way, laughed (with me, not at me I hope) and said, “Charming, he just left you there did he?” They didn’t make a move to help me up either mind you!
I eventually extricated myself and hurried to catch up.
We spent the next hour cycling by the river, dipping into the nature reserve, and back up a back hill. I had a few gear troubles (it’s my age) but overall, I kept up and had lots of fun. We cycled through rain, hail and sunshine and made our way back to the country park café, where I was treated to a well-deserved cup of tea. I even turned down a kind offer of a sticky bun!
This particular group of people meet every week and I’ve signed up to go every Thursday morning, work permitting of course. It’s an older crowd but they couldn’t have been any warmer or friendlier and not once did I feel awkward or out of place. It’s free, I’m pretty sure every council runs something similar and I may even have signed up for the free walking club too!
I got home and was a broken woman. Broken I tell you!
So I’m glad I bit the bullet to try something new and have clocked up an impressive 2 hours of cycling today … which means it’s totally acceptable to have apple crumble and custard tonight right?