Well I never thought I'd see the day.
When I was a kid (12, 13ish) I had a bike. I loved riding it up and down the street, in a world of my own. I never cycled to school though; for one thing, it really wasn't too far to walk, and for another, you weren't allowed to unless you had your Cycling Proficiency badge. For some reason, I had - from childhood until very (i.e. boat) recently - a horror of taking instruction, particularly on anything that involved equipment. Driving lessons even in my late twenties were agony, and when once, against my better judgement, I was prevailed upon to visit a gym, I turned round and walked straight out again. So I wasn't much of a cyclist, but I enjoyed the limited amount I did.
Then, again in my late 20s, when I first knew Jim, he had a bike and for some reason it seemed like a good idea for me to get one too, but this time it just didn't work. As a grown up I wasn't allowed to ride on the pavement any more, and frankly, the road was damn scary. On top of that the bike was too big and heavy, and Jim used to get very impatient that I couldn't keep up with him. The bike ended up being passed onto no. 1 son when he got big enough, and my cycling days were over.
Or so I thought. Then last weekend, looking over to the towpath, I thought cycling along there can't be too hard, if I had a bike I was comfortable with. Wouldn't it be handy to be able to cycle along to Fradley (a couple of miles) or even Rugeley (five miles)... maybe even to the station. So much easier and cheaper than taking and parking the car. But of course I didn't want to fork out for something I might not use, so we decided to keep an eye on Freecycle and see what came up. Then this afternoon Jim spotted that they had a number of bikes at the tip for a tenner each, so I went down and made my selection - a not very old, not too big and not too heavy Raleigh, in really good nick - the brakes and gears all work and it's dead straight; it just needed new tyres. Jim has given it the once over, a clean and a little drop of paint, and then the moment of truth came... We put it in the car and went over to our local cycle route between Newhaven and Bishopstone to see how I got on. By car you can only join the route in the middle, but after a few circuits of the car park to get the feel of it I cycled to Bishopstone and back and then to Newhaven and back - a total of six miles, apparently. And it was great. So watch out Rugeley... here I come!
After the Event
2 days ago