“I wouldn’t listen to a word the weather forecaster is saying,” was my totally unappreciated advice, “They said last weekend was going to be a washout and it wasn’t!”
Utterances of doom were still being muttered but with the complete absence of sympathy from my quarter, these were quiet witterings and, in the event, it turned out I had been right and, for the most part, we had a 4 day spell of half decent weather.
Little Mudlets new bike had been collected on Wednesday last week but she hadn’t really had chance to have a proper go on it. So Friday, after school, the four of us set off for a short ride to see how she would manage. Mud was concerned because her bike was unbelievably heavy, tipping the scales at 16.25kg which, when you consider it is the smallest of our bikes and Muds humongous 29er weighs less than that even with it’s enormous wheels, larger frame, disc brakes etc, is totally ridiculous for a childs bike.
We only went about a mile down one of the tracks and it soon became apparent that although she was capable of riding her new bike once she’d got it going, Little Mudlet was finding it hard work pushing off and making the first pedals strikes, weaving all over the track in her efforts which wasn’t too much of an issue on a relatively deserted lane but on the main road …….. By the time we arrived back home, she was shattered and Mud was even more concerned that the weight was too much. However, being more of an optimist I suggested it would just take a little while for her to get used to a bigger, heavier bike and to get her leg strength up.
Although the party preparations took up much of Saturday, we did find time for another ride down the track and decided to take some sandwiches and have an impromptu picnic part way along the same track we had cycled down on Friday. Once again Little Mudlet struggled to get her bike going but coped really well once it was on the move …….. until, that is, she cycled into the grass verge and fell off! Mercifully she found the only section of verge that was nettle free but her legs were partly trapped under her bike and she couldn’t free herself. I had to help lift it off and I have to say for a childs bike it really is way too heavy!
Sunday was party day and so we didn’t have chance for another bike ride, a fact for which I was infinitely thankful, as my muscles were a little sore after two days of cycling trips, albeit short ones. Mud, on the other hand, was itching to be back out on his bike and suggested that first thing Bank Holiday Monday, we ride along a nearby lane, referred to locally as ‘The Tops’, as it follows the line of the hill that looks down into the Ancholme valley.
“We could cycle along The Tops and then drop down into one of the villages, have an ice-cream at the shop and then head back,” he said.
Sounds so easy when you put it like …….
Unfortunately, there is an incredibly steep hill that would need to be climbed, with bikes in hand, before we could reach the lane. Although I don’t know the gradient of this particular hill, the back route out of this particular village is up it’s sister hill (about 3 to 4 hundred metres away) which has a gradient of approximately 6% to 10%. Personally the prospect of the climb alone was enough to put me off, as we had climbed it as part of a walk a couple of times over the last 12 years and it is not easy, in fact even the County Councils cycle map has it marked as “Steep Hill, cyclists advised to walk“. What part of “feel 500 years old” and “haven’t been on a bike for 30 years” had he not understood?
So 10 o’clock Monday morning, with the sun shining, we filled the water bottles and headed off.
With a sense of deep foreboding, I began to tackle the unbelievable steep hill, pushing my own bike with one hand and helping a struggling Little Mudlet push her bike with the other. I say helping Little Mudlet but it soon became apparent that, although she was holding the handlebar and her seat, she wasn’t actually doing any of the pushing and that muggins here was doing all the work.
Mud, in the mean time, was storming on ahead of us, happily pushing his own bike, totally oblivious to my near collapse situation, as I struggled to push the two bikes up the steepest part of what is to all intents and purposes, a farm track! Half way up he stopped and had a sly cigarette and a drink whilst the rest of us caught him up.
“This was your idea so you can push Little Mudlets bike up the 2nd half of the hill!” I snarled as our youngest daughter and I finally reached Mud and Middle Mudlet …… once I had regained the ability to speak that is!
“This is a stupidly heavy bike for a child,” or variations along this theme and not all of them fit for publication, was heard to be muttered on several occasions during the second half of the climb.
The view from the top of the hill is quite breath taking and Monday morning was exceptionally beautiful, the bright blue of the sky and glorious sunshine adding to the panorama ……. although it was a few minutes before I’d recovered enough to enjoy it.
A much needed drink and snack bar did much to restore our energy levels and after 10 minutes or so, we set off along the road with Mud and Middle Mudlet leading the way and a wobbly Little Mudlet and I bringing up the rear. We passed a number of other cyclists as we rode along and much to Little Mudlets relief, only 1 car but before long it was time to start the descent back into the valley itself …….. and it was immediately obvious that riding down the hill was not an option for the Mudlets. It was far too steep!
As Little Mudlets front wheel crashed painfully into my ankle a couple of minutes into the descent, I realised that pushing her stupidly heavy bike up the insanely steep hill at the start of the bike ride would be a breeze, compared to trying to walk it back down this one! Even with her brakes applied, the bike was running away with her and so, once again I found myself trying to manage two bikes whilst Mud and Middle Mudlet walked on ahead, seemingly oblivious to the struggle that was going on behind them.
Finally, we were able to remount our bikes and cycled back along the main road, stopping for a well deserved ice-cream en route.
Later on Mud and I were discussing the problems our youngest was having with her bike. Muds’ concern was that she would be put off cycling if things didn’t improve quickly. His solution was to purchase a second, lighter bike in a smaller size, to last her the few months until she had grown a couple more inches and had developed some leg strength. Neither of us were thrilled at the idea of having to buy a second bike but we felt we had little choice and after much trawling of the internet, reading reviews and specifications, Mud finally found a slightly smaller bike which weighed in at just 11.5kg, the B’twin Mistigirl 3.
This bike arrived yesterday and we had to explain to a tearful Little Mudlet that we weren’t getting rid of her much loved Mountain bike, daddy was going to carefully wrap it in bubble wrap (left over from the greenhouse) so that we could store it until she was big, strong and confident enough to ride it and that this new bike was lighter and more of a hybrid, just like mummys’ bike. She sobbed heart broken for ages but I finally started to get through to her by explaining that there were some lovely pink accessories which wouldn’t affect the overall weight that much, she could have for her bike.
Finally she started to show an interest and we took her outside to have a pedal on the grass and you could see the realisation beginning to dawn on her that she was able to move this bike around easily even when walking and was able to self correct if she started toppled due to its’ light weight. The fact her bike came with front and rear lights definitely helped the cause – nobody else has lights at the moment – and by bedtime she was happily getting on and off the bike, or just sitting on it telling Middle Mudlet how wonderful it was, pointing out all the things her bike had the her sisters’ didn’t.
I am annoyed though. What should have been a brilliantly happy time for my little girl has turned into a traumatic experience. The bike she chose, based on the sizing carried out by Halfords, is her pride and joy and she can’t ride it. Yes, she likes her hybrid now but at the end of the day we shouldn’t have had to spend more money purchasing a second bike. I strongly believe that if Halfords is going to help size a bike then the build of a child should be taken into consideration and the weight of the bikes discussed.
I understand why the 24 inch bike was recommended, as Little Mudlet is at the top of the scale for 20 inch bikes and the lower end of the 24 inch and the assistant obviously felt that parents would prefer to have the slightly larger bike, than spend money on a bike that would be too small in 12 months. However, the weight of the bikes in that size was never mentioned and this has proved to be key to finding the correct bike for our daughter. Mud and I are still trying to get our heads around the fact that her bike was heavier than either of our bikes, it doens’t make sense.
We’re hoping to go for a ride tomorrow (weather permitting) and I can’t wait to see how Little Mudlet copes with her smaller, lighter bike. I hope that her confidence bounces back and that she is finally able to enjoy riding her bike.