Monday, 4 April 2011

No Chains Please, We're Ethical Cyclists

Prescott was Two Jags.

I’m Green Dad: Four Bikes.

Don’t look at me like that! Each bicycle is essential, vital, necessary.

You’re like those people who don’t understand why a guy needs three thermos flasks.

Look - one’s a fully fledged mountain bike with a super light frame, disc brakes and suspension for doing silly things in the hills; the second is a commuting steed for the city; the third is a folding bike for those last minute business trips by train; and the fourth is an old rusting work horse of a bike that used to be for off-road stuff but is about to get a new lease of life…

The old mucker is getting an upgrade. The suspension doesn’t work very well but that’s no problem. Its new life will be as a touring bicycle. A new chain, big squidgy saddle and rack on the back and I’ll be able to do lots of trips on unclassified and B roads with the ability to lug a camera and change of clothes. And I won’t have lost the feeling in my tender rear at the end of the journey.

This weekend involved a superb bike ride between Forres and Elgin. It was a route I’d spotted on the OS map a while back but had never got round to exploring. If you head south-east of Forres up Califer hill it takes a fair amount of puff but you’re rewarded with an amazing view across the Moray Firth. You can then breeze on east through Monaughty Forest to Miltonduff and thence over the Lossie to Elgin.

It was a splendid ride, marred only by the distant view of a wind farm to the south. (Can you tell I’m being sarcastic?)

Upon arrival in the Moray capital I suggested a takeaway coffee and a seat in the sun. This was seconded by my biking buddy but blimey the look she shot me when I suggested Starbucks! For a cyclist she has a strange aversion to chains. (Hey, see what I did there?)

For the record, Gordon & Macphail’s the deli do excellent takeaway coffee. I was amazed at my self-restraint; I didn’t come away with a case of whisky and my own bodyweight in blue cheese.

So a lovely day on the bikes - but could I have taken Todder with me? A few folk have suggested I get a child seat but I remain sceptical. I just know TWMBO would fall asleep listening to me pointing out interesting cloud formations and stopping to assess our route on the OS map. Her nodding off would cause us to veer into a hedge.

There’s also the option of the wee covered wagon you tow along behind you but they look so flimsy. No, the answer is to let her waddle about on tricycles and scooters for a few years then go for a full blown bike riding lesson. We’ll perfect the balance issue first then slot in some pedals. Stabilisers are such a mistake!

My own learning curve was a sharp and painful one. I recall being about six years old, my dad placing me on top of a massive Grifter (remember those? They had three gears!) and pushing me down a hill while my mum watched through her fingers at the bottom. I inevitably lost my balance a few times but gravity - until that point regarded as a friend - kept me going while scraping my face against the harling on the council house walls.

Since then I’ve been addicted. I remember when I was a teenager one friend said I was never seen without a bike. Even then I thought it was a huge compliment.

They are the ultimate low carbon transport and will without doubt replace the car in good time. I’m always amazed how car-centric development is in this country. I recently had to attend a meeting at a local authority headquarters. Not only was there no path - only a road - to get to the building but there was nowhere to padlock a bike.

The current stushie about fuel prices and the ‘raid’ on North Sea oil firms is an utter red herring. We’ve burnt the cheap stuff. It ain’t gonna get any easier. The sooner we shift to a low carbon economy the better. In short: get on your bike!


  1. Stop nancing about, fella, and get a bike seat. S loves hers and we've just bought a tagalong for L (aged 6). As for me I just have the two bikes: a commuter model and a restored Raleigh Twenty with Chopper handle bars. Mountains are for climbing. Not cycling up. When you're 47 with knackered knees.

  2. Maybe if there was a sort of tandem so at least the little person on the back could pedal their share...