I can still remember that sensation of grounded free-flight when my Dad took his supporting hand off the back of the saddle, and I coasted off on two wheels under my own balance and power. Fortunately, I instinctively seemed to know what to do when I had to come to a halt – put a foot down to prevent the rest of me going down in a heap.
And from that point in my early youth, it’s been difficult to keep me away from a bike for long. Now in my 70th year, I am cycling more than I ever have – c70 miles per week, and enough to give the lungs and legs a good workout.
There are a greater number of active cyclists now than there ever have been, with great bikes available at great prices and all manner of kit, clubs, and opportunities to cycle, not just in our country but across the world. France is my favourite – a country that reveres cycling, with motorists knowing how to act when sharing road space with them – quite unlike in the UK, where motorists have a different sense of priorities, i.e. they think they have the right of way even when they don’t, and brook no interruptions to their journeys.
Which is not to say that cyclists are always in the right – far from it. Think how many times you’ve seen cyclists pedalling gaily through red lights, or careering thoughtlessly down pedestrian areas and pavements.
After the Welshman Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France in 2018, he embarked on an ‘always wear a helmet‘ campaign. Something of a waste of effort in my book, as most already do, and those that don’t are probably past convincing.
But he could have brought his considerable influence to bear on what I think are two far more pressing problems in the cycling world.
Firstly, Geraint, call on cyclists to wear hi-viz clothing at all times, and NOT black-only, which is very much de rigueur amongst the faster-cycling male fraternity, together with their black bikes. I’ve always thought cyclists to be a cut-above in the intelligence stakes, so this ought not to be a huge leap for them. They are extremely trusting, expecting motorists to see them in all circumstances. I have good eyesight, and I don’t always see them soon enough. Many drivers have eyesight so bad, that they are a liability to all other road users. Common-sense ought to rule the day here.
Secondly, I know that a bell is a compulsory fitting on any new bike, but how many resist the temptation to take it off straight away on the grounds of unnecessary additional weight? I keep a keen eye open for bells, and people who use them. There are barely any. I have a gizmo called a Hornit, which is ‘the world’s loudest cycle horn’ according to their website. I have to say that it’s brilliant and it’s loud, warning other cyclists and pedestrians of my presence. It has the desired effect of making people look round to see what the noise is – and it inevitably raises a smile and a thank you, (yes, really!)
Go on, Geraint, I dare you to use your influence to good effect – and, in case you’re wondering, I always wear hi-viz clothing, and whilst I know it doesn’t guarantee being seen (as I know to the personal loss of skin and blood), it gives me a far better chance of staying alive and uninjured – and I happen to think that mine looks rather cool.
Here I am, somewhere on the North Devon coast, looking bright…