I was born and grew up in a city of bikes, Cambridge. I can remember when small, my sister and I had a little seats attached to my parents’ bikes and we would go out for bike rides. I even remember once going through Girton, a nearby village, and us stopping to look at squirrels in the trees. They were red squirrels because they greys, although around at the time didn’t quite achieve the shocking dominance they have now.
As soon as I was able I had a trike – a three wheeled maroon tricycle, quite basic, but absolutely the best gift for me – I loved it and trundled happily about. I must have done miles, round and round the garden. It was second hand but I didn’t mind, it wasn’t a thing to always have new in those days, I just loved my trike! Richard who lived next door was six months younger than me and on his birthday, he also got a trike, a blue one with a ‘boot’ on the back. We became more and more adventurous and went up and down our road and all around – there were few cars in those days, only one or two down our road so it was quite safe. Once we went on a real expedition, and looking at a map now I realise it was nearly a mile and a half from home, and we went to where the railway crossing was to watch the trains go by… imagine that now! We must have only been about four years old! I would have had a fit if my children had even gone out of sight of the house on their trikes when they were the same age!
I progressed from my beloved trike to a green two-wheeler, again second-hand, and I have a feeling it might have belonged to a big girl (four years older than me!) who lived across the road from us. I must have done some miles on that little two-wheeler, mostly to visit friends, but also to go to the swimming pool. When I was eleven, like everyone else, I took the 11+ exam which decided which secondary school I should go to. My parents bought me a brand new – yes an actual brand new bike to say ‘well done’! Whatever my result they knew I would have tried my hardest and rewarded me for working hard.
My new bike, my new green bike, brand new!! Not only did I continue to use it for pleasure, visiting friends, going on expeditions, riding along the tow path by the River Cam, following Dad as he coached his rowing eight, but I used it to travel to school – four miles there, four miles back. In the evenings, and later in the mornings pre-school I used to to go to swimming training, as well as doing my paper round everyday. Being a bit of a nerd, I’ve just worked out that if I attended school every day, which I did – very rarely ill, then I cycled over 11,000 miles in the five years I went to that school!
We moved from Cambridge to Weston-super-Mare when I was sixteen and my cycling days ended abruptly. We lived on a very steep hill, an having been used to the flatness of Cambridge (yes, I know technically it’s built on seven hills like Rome) cycling was just impossible. Cycling was over for me. I had a brief resumption when I was working – and back in Weston but now living on the flat; the strong on-shore wind and the traffic put me off, and I’m afraid I wimped out and used other transport.
Do I miss cycling? No. Maybe if we lived somewhere else and the roads were safer I might possibly stat again, but I think probably not. Cycling is in the past for me!
PS I completely forgot this little push-along bike I had; I actually don’t remember it, but here I am riding with a little help from Richard next door!
By the way the seven hills of Cambridge are Senate House Hill, Market Hill, Peas Hill, Castle Hill, Pound Hill, Honey Hill and Mount Pleasant – although some would say Bar Hill or the Gog Magog Hills but they are outside the city.