Q. How many people can you get on a bike?
A. A whole army!
This is what I’m thinking I need to transport half our local village school children to school in the mornings. No need for them to come all of 200 metres to school by car anymore. All I have to do is to dig in some train tracks and Bob’s your uncle – school run car mayhem solved! (Just in case you are wondering these are soldiers off to war in South Africa at the end of the 19th century on the best people-carrier I’ve ever seen).
Here are slightly fewer bodies on my latest steed – a Circe Helios Steps e-bike. Fun for all the family! When Jack brings a friend home for a play we can now get 5 on a bike. (P.S. Just in case any helmet police spot this picture Molly does normally wear a lid but took it off for the photo as apparently helmets aren’t fashionable for 10 year olds).
The battery assist addition is a boon and has to be the most fun thing on 4 wheels. My previous tandem became so heavy I thought my knees were going to explode. The weight with all offspring/camping clobber/shopping etc on board felt like dragging concrete girders behind me – on the slightest slope I started to be dragged backwards. Now it feels like riding a heavily loaded touring bike and with a touch of a button I can go from normal cycling (battery off) to booster-mode and no hill now stands between us. I live in a valley with near-vertical 1:4’s on almost every exit but we now hit them at speed! Plus we are never late for school anymore despite riding a 4 metre (13-and-a-half-feet) long contraption. If anyone wants anymore info on one of these fine species of steed contact me or email@example.com
And so to the on-going Isle-of-Wight-coast-path-by-bike-and-pram saga:
Last long-winded blog-bit saw mini cyclists Daisy (6), Jack (3) and me the pram-pusher (half a century) push and cycle our way around the coast of the Isle of Wight from Ryde to Sandown. It was New Year and Daisy should have been at school but as my dad had just died we felt the need to go on a 5-day mission to the sea instead. Molly (10) had wanted to stay at home to keep Gran company.
Part 2 occurred in February half term. Start point this time was where we left off in January: Sandown. As on Leg 1, I didn’t pre-book any accommodation as it was impossible to predict how far our small merry mob would get in a day. This live-in-hope-that-we-will-find-bed method tended to be a little hit and miss as most B&Bs were still closed for winter. But somehow we always managed to find a room in the end, though there were a couple of occasions when, with darkness falling and no doors opening, I started in slight desperation to eye up bus shelters and church porches to lay our weary heads (personal preference from past experience of spending-many-a-night in both is for a church porch as they tend not to be used so often as a public toilet and most churches usually have a water tap lurking in a corner somewhere).
The good news is we had a very fun time and didn’t get blown over a cliff, fall into a chine or slip down a landslide. The bad news is we got hit by multiple punctures (Daisy’s bike was the one to fall prey: broken glass and devilishly spiky hawthorn hedge-cuttings) and Storm Doris. What tumultuous wind Doris had! Yes, yes I know teetering along exposed narrow cliff-top paths a stone’s throw from The Needles with two young offspring is perhaps not the best place to be when a Doris-like storm whips up 70 mph winds to lift you clean off your feet. But what can you do? Apart from stay safely home, that is. But where’s the fun in that?
Bikes and loaded prams on train on way to Portsmouth (this was a bumpy bit of track hence blurred picture!)
Daisy trying out her wheels on arrival at Portsmouth. Jack is admiring HMS Warrior – Britain’s first (1860) iron-hulled, armoured battleship.
On board the ferry leaving Portsmouth. Next stop Ryde.
Demonstrating very bouncy seats on the 80-year-old former London Underground tube trains which are now used overground on the 8-mile Ryde to Shanklin line.
First stop on the Isle of Wight: Sandown’s Rock Shop for lovely tooth-rotting treats.
Full steam ahead – Sandown to Shanklin.
Jack checking the high cliff to his right is staying put (further back there had been a landslip).
Daisy in pensive mood on Shanklin beach. Jack on a mission to trouble.
Dragging the pram up over the 200 Appley steps near Shanklin Chine.
Half an hour later I’m still pram-dragging. Jack giving a helping hand.
Then I have to go back down to get the bikes.
Happy on top!
Luccombe Cliff Road – Jack having a breather up another steep hill.
Coast path atop Luccombe Chine.
Oh no! More steps! High above Steel Bay.
In the thick of the Devil’s Staircase. (Picture is blurred due to Daisy falling off step at time of taking the snap!)
Jack in command.
Jungle cycling above Bordwood Ledge.
Steep hill ahoy! Jack about to rocket off down the precipice. He made it – and only fell off at the bottom.
Storm Doris is brewing – riding into the wind and rain Bonchurch sea wall.
Ventnor seafront in the rain.
Puncture Number 1! Steephill Cove.
Wild wind, wild waves. Doris is getting closer.
A good-sized path for Jack, but not for fat prams. Above Woody Bay.
Daisy trying to stand upright in the build-up to Storm Doris’s forceful wind.
The landslip-of-a-path above Woody Bay where you don’t want to put a foot wrong.
Daisy telling the blustery wind what she thinks of it as she tries to hold her bike upright. Niton Down.
Thunderbirds are go! Daisy double-wrapped against the strong cold wind.
Storm Doris!Looking towards Freshwater Bay and The Needles.
The next day the storm has passed, the sun is out, but the wind still blows like merry hell.
Daisy in free-fall down Samber Hill.
Jack creeping up on a worm on South Down.
…Go! Wicken Hill Lane, Brighstone.
Wind blowing a gale again above Fossil Forest, Brook Bay.
As the narrow cliff path was too dangerous in the high winds we spent 4 hours heading inland climbing up to the top of Compton Down.
The ascent involved a lot of muddy pram-pushing.
And bike carrying.
Fending off the wind.
4 hours later we’re nearly at the top.
High above Compton Bay in the wind and the rain.
The constant hammering noise of the wind in our ears made our heads rattle and every word had to be a shout.
Then…puncture number 2 strikes!
Back in action again heading across East Afton Down.
Coming down into Freshwater as the light is fading and the rain is falling.
Outside our Freshwater B&B with puncture number 3!
Silly seaside faces.
By the time we reached Yarmouth our half-term week was up so we jumped on a double-decker bus to Ryde. In a snail-creeping manner we had covered 46 miles (averaging 6.5 miles a day). I ended up doing a bit more than this as in areas of vertical inclines and multiple steps I would have to do the same bit of path about 7 times: remove heavy bags from pram, run ahead with them and dump, run back to push/drag/carry pram up, run back to get Daisy’s bike then ditto Jack’s bike and big backpack.
Amazingly, despite the arduousness of our coastal jaunt Jack and Daisy never whinged, moaned or whined (like they sometimes to when I drag them up the hill at home for a walk). They both took the bull by the horns and charged head-first into the whole jolly jaunt. ‘This is weally good a-venture mum!’ Jack would declare on a daily basis. And Daisy remained buoyant and comical and high-spirited throughout. Daisy rode or walked all of the 46 miles and Jack did 30 miles – only climbing into the pram for his afternoon siesta or when the wind was too loud or the rain too wet. Our next leg in summer half-term should be our last leg: return to Freshwater, over The Needles, then The Needles to Ryde following the north coast.
Meanwhile we’re off with Molly to spend the 2-week Easter holiday cycling around the Channel Islands on our new multi-seated steed.
Ferry home to Portsmouth.