Between school holidays and my mum visiting, I realised I needed to do a bit of planning to make rides more meaningful than a quick evening or early morning dash round the block. So last night I got organised and arranged to borrow a step-through women’s bike from Gayle Appleyard of local architecture practice Gagarin Studio. Then this morning I informed my mum that we were going on a bike ride. She didn’t argue, but she did say she hadn’t ridden a bike since 1997. We set off along route 66 to Hebden Bridge, and despite my mum’s slight apprehension, it turns out that riding a bike really is like riding a bike – you can just get back on and you don’t forget how to do it. The new fangled technology – suspension forks and indexed gears – were a bit alien to my mum, who claimed to prefer her old steel bike. This was an ancient single speed, steel, dutch style bike with rod brakes which she used to ride around with me on the back in a seat which makes a mockery of current safety standards and kite marks. I’m pretty sure this is near identical. I grew up out in the sticks up a rough forestry track, so the fact that my mum hauled a massively heaving single speed bike over gates and along rough tracks is only slightly more impressive than the fact that I didn’t fall out and maim myself on any of these excursions. Maybe this is where my slightly carefree attitude to rough descents comes from. We made it to Hebden just in time to see the young star of Le Grand Depart riding his new birthday bike for the first time. It was a tad too big, but this wasn’t going to stop him riding it round the park. I barely dared look as he stretched out full reach on the drops to grab the brakes and stop – I worried about how high that crossbar was compared to the length of his legs. However, he was clearly delighted with it, and was still riding it after we’d done the skate park, the swings, and the Park Life Cafe.
Torn between admiring Kid 1’s one handed riding skills and anxiety over the well being of Birthday Boy’s crown jewels, I suddenly heard the screams of Kid 2. He was on the floor and not getting up – not a good sign in a child that usually bounces. The screams also had that pitch that I know signals a real physical injury rather than just hurt pride. As I rode towards him, he got up, and I could see his nose and mouth were obscured by mud and blood. A worrying development. Kid 2 specialises in the kinds of incidents that very nearly require A&E/air ambulance/ plastic surgery. Body surfing head first down the ravine in Nutclough Woods, high speed balance bike crashes – he’s tested my nerves many times. Scrabbling around for tissues (at least having a cold for weeks means I actually had some with me) I mopped up the blood and hoped all his teeth were still there. After a few worried minutes, it became apparent he’d just given himself a fright and a fat lip as a result of trying to copy his sister’s one handed skills. Another close shave. There was nothing for it but to continue the ride home, so, with Kid 2 crying all the way back to Mytholmroyd we finished our ride (I did push him along though, I wasn’t so cruel as to make him ride all the way under his own steam). He’s fine now – some people pay good money to have their lips look like his. I hope Birthday Boy made it to his party unscathed.