Sportive riding for kids

I made a blunder on the domestic front when I agreed to the dates for the Building Cycling Cultures event, which took place in Leicester at the weekend (I’ll write about it later this week): I had to disappear down south on Saturday, Bobby’s 10th birthday, and completely missed our local sportive, run by our cycling club (Lancaster CC), which took place on Sunday.

Le Terrier is a wonderful event, with this year a choice of three distances through our local countryside around the Forest of Bowland. Before I mucked it up, we’d discussed riding the shortest route as a family, with Flo and me on the tandem. (Though I’d also have loved to try the new and tough looking 102 mile route with some of my cycling mates.)

But with me down south, Sue and Bobby decided they’d try the 43 mile route anyway, especially when Bobby’s classmate Ffion and her Dad Rick also opted to give it a go. Sue’s written a short report of the day, which I’ve copied below.

“Some people think I’m bonkers,

But I just think I’m free…”

This is the lyric which Rick kept singing as we began the Le Terrier short route on Sunday. A bit annoying, but he had a point. There’s nowt bonkers about going on a 45 mile bike ride, even if it is a bit cold and rainy, but taking two children with us? It felt a potentially daft thing to do. It’s true that Bobby (ten years and one day old) had cycled to Slaidburn last year, but he then stayed the night before coming back to Lancaster. Meanwhile his classmate Ffion (who’s just still 9) has been riding a 6 mile time trial regularly, but had never ridden up a steep hill. Could they do it, could they enjoy it, or might we have a moanfest of a day, have to call for a motorised rescue, and put them off cycling for ever?

The first hill, Jubilee Tower, is a bit of a workout – indeed, a climb I used to be scared of. The kids hit their bottom gears, danced on their pedals, but then Ffion got off and walked. I think she had exhausted herself by being undergeared! She also felt sick from the sight of so much fresh road kill … all those baby rabbits hoppity hopping to their deaths. Luckily she listened to her dad’s advice, and soon learned how to climb without needing to stop, and to look away from the tarmac carnage.

As we continued to the Trough of Bowland the rain got harder, so at Dunsop Bridge we treated our cold toes and fingers to the warmth of the café. Bobby and Ffion could probably have made their hot chocolates and flapjacks last until tea time, but we eventually got them back out into the rain with the promise of more treats at the Slaidburn stop. There the small kitchen was bustling with friendly cyclists in thin or non-existent rain coats having the same conversation: “this wasn’t forecast” and “I’ve not come prepared for this weather!” We indulged in the feast of unlimited sandwiches, malt loaf, cake, flapjacks and (most excitingly for the children) crisps and jelly babies.

Perhaps it was the quantity of food he’d just eaten which led Bob to have an emotional wobble on a climb soon after: “I’m not doing this next year”, “I’m going to be sick!” and “I can’t do it”. Or perhaps it was my honest reply to his question “are we half way there yet?” We weren’t, quite, but he recovered. The clouds cleared and the climb up to the Cross o’Greet was glorious.

Cruising down from the Cross was fabulous. Bob was absolutely beaming with the thrill and exhilaration of it, and asked if we could ride back up to do it again. Request denied. On we went, with Rick delighted to discover such beautiful lanes to ride on, after living in Lancaster for more than 20 years. Faster riders kept speeding past us, but we rolled on and down to Wray, and then hunkered down to the busier roads which complete the short course. As he had promised in the morning, Bob sprinted off as soon as we entered Williamson’s Park, closely followed by Ffion.

All in all it took us almost seven hours, with four and a half hours of riding – around one minute off the saddle for every two minutes on it! I think Rick and I were probably prouder of our offspring than they were of themselves. Both asked the same question on going to bed: “can I do the 67 mile route next year?”

Congratulations Bobby and Ffion – you’re both super stars! And well done Sue and Rick – if you like, you two can do the big one next year and the kids can coax me around one of the shorter options! And big thanks to the many people involved in making the event such a great success – I promise not to miss 2012’s Le Terrier!

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One Response to “Sportive riding for kids”

  1. lakescyclist Says:

    That is wonderful!
    Seeing them so full of excitement as I struggled to the top of Cross of Greet was one of the highlights of the day. As I got to the top I could hear Rick(? ) chanting ‘Are we tough’ and the children replying ‘Yes we are’. When I was asked if I was tough all I could reply was ‘I used to be!’
    You should and they should be really proud of their infectious enthusiasm and spirit!

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