On the one hand, the blog you’re about to read doesn’t really fit the brief of this blog-site as a whole – being that it’s not about my Ironman “training”.
But, at the same time, the blog you’re about to read does deal with the fact that getting on a bike doesn’t have to be about “training” and that cycling is as diverse an activity as any I know.
And, whilst I “bang that drum” fairly frequently, a Twitter buddy, Kristy, reminded me that this blog was worth posting.
So here goes!
A week ago was the day of the inaugural “City of Bristol Gymnastics Centre” bike ride.
As many of you will know, my oldest lad, Angus, is a gymnast (as is my youngest, Evert, for that matter) and his coach suggested to me that, on their rest day (Saturday), it would be a nice idea to get the boys together on one of the many cycle-paths around the area and go for a social ride.
And hey – if someone is asking me to organise a bike ride then I’m all over that like an ill-fitting suit!
The uptake was good and included the whole of Angus’ squad (plus Dads… but not Mums, curiously, which was a shame since it gave the day an “only boys were allowed” feel. It also meant that Lisa didn’t really want to join as would have been my preference).
Even a couple of siblings wanted in on the action.
I chose the most local cycle path to me – largely because I know it so well having done many a family bike ride on it… and, furthermore, I know that there are cafés situated at both ends of the “there and back” ride I had planned.
I wasn’t going to force us all to ride some ridiculous distance… it’s all too easy for me to think that, just because the boys are comfortable on their bikes for a couple of hours and more then that must mean that everyone will be… no – I decided that this first outing should just be about “testing the water” with a 5 miles out/5 miles back route.
That’s reasonable for a bunch of kids and Dads who ride bikes far less frequently than “Family-Collard”.
That said, I find myself typing the phrase; “since the bike ride started fairly close to home, we decided to ride to the start” fairly frequently in these blogs… and, for me, Angus and Evert, last Saturday was no exception.
I said to the boys that, since the cycle path starts only a little over 5 miles (of country lanes) from our home, it would seem mad to get to the start any way other than just riding it!
The extra mileage would take our day up to 20 miles, so the boys jumped at that chance.
That did leave us with a bit of a quandary, though – we were lending out a few of our bikes to other participants in the ride and, with us cycling to the start, we did find ourselves wondering how to get the rest of them to their borrowers for the day.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No… it’s my wife!
Once again, I find myself thanking Lisa for swooping in with her support and, last Saturday, she once again stepped up to the plate by driving her car (complete with the three bikes we were lending out) to the start.
The ride itself was nothing short of brilliant.
The weather had apparently decided to ignore the forecast for cloud and, instead, treated us to full sun for the whole journey.
The boys were having a great time – they spend 18 tough training hours together every week so, actually, they see each-other as closer friends than they have even at school.
And, whilst Evert isn’t in that same squad, he does train at the same gymnastics centre so, again, he knows them all well enough to just fit straight in.
Even the siblings who were coming at the ride without such tight bonds with the rest were being included as if they were part of the one big happy family.
As for the Dads, we were busy chatting away the whole time… as you can probably imagine!
The pace was, by design, leisurely and the location of the halfway stop was a café of a disused railway station – where an old steam train still sits – which means we could eat the snacks on offer whilst sitting in an old railway carriage or, as was the case for us, the open-air (cleaned out) coal truck repurposed by virtue of a set of garden furniture sitting where the pile of coal once would have!
A few of the group started making suggestions to ride a few more miles before turning around to head back but I put up a barrier to that, if I’m being honest.
I didn’t want the ride to be about distance – I wanted it to be about fun.
I sensed that, asking some of the boys to ride a bit further would place us all in danger of it starting to feel like a chore as we came to the end.
I wanted to finish with everyone wanting more… I figured that that would give us the best chance of people having fond memories of the day.
The ride back was no less fun.
“Super-Lisa” (who’d obviously gone off for a couple of hours doing her own thing before come back in time for our arrival – to take the loaned bikes back home) lived up to her name once again by bringing a selection of ice-lollies for everyone to have as an “end of ride” treat.
As everyone went their separate ways, Angus, Evert and I rode those last 5 miles home and that was that… the end of the ride.
You know, sometimes, a day feels about as good as it could be?
That was last Saturday.
Everyone, without exception, enjoyed themselves and since that was the primary goal (as should always be the case), the inaugural “City of Bristol Gymnastics bike ride” was a success to be repeated.
From a pure “cycling” point of view, it was a huge success, too – seeing a bunch of kids loving the process of riding a bike really gave me hope that the future of cycling for the next generation is bright.
Here are a few pics from the day (and even a video!):
And, if we’re trying to extract some kind of tenuous link to Ironman training, for the sake of making this post relevant to the blog-site as a whole, I think I’ve found one.
Whilst we only covered 20-odd miles, we were riding for around 2 and a half hours… and something struck me as we were nearing the end.
It doesn’t really matter too much “how far” we’d ridden… what matters is that I was pretty much continually turning my legs over, and sitting on a bike, for 2 and a half hours…. and that, surely, must confer at least some training benefit.
I’m clutching at straws, a little, I know – but I don’t care… I’m claiming it!