The Evolution Of A Cyclist
Strangely, I don’t remember when I learned to ride a bike. The first bike I remember having was from around the age of 8 to 15. There was nothing sleek and sexy about the Raleigh Shopper (apologies to Raleigh for saying so).
I lived at the top of a steep hill and my route home from any direction was up. Hard work on a bike with small wheels and with that tartan bag filled with anything from tennis kit to picnics to newspapers for the deliveries I did on it from the age of 13. In those days, children were free to roam and I and my Raleigh Shopper travelled to and from the nearest town 5 miles away and beyond on a series of adventures.
At age 15, with the help of a mail-order catalogue and my paper round money, I bought myself my first road bike. Of course, then they were known as racing bikes. It opened up a whole new world of adventure as I could ride faster and further. No one I knew rode bikes, so these were usually solo rides to random places in neighbouring counties chosen only for their ever-increasing distance from home as I clocked up the miles.
At 16, I got my provisional licence and bought a moped (a much-loved FS1E, for those interested) and later passed my test and bought a bigger bike (a VF400 for those same interested readers). These took me on different adventures, and my road bike languished unloved and forgotten.
At some point in my early 20s, I became aware of the adventures to be had on the newly available mountain bikes. I bought a shiny new Scott Sawtooth. I was involved in teaching climbing by this point and loved that I could literally ride to work on my bike. My love of cycling was revived in an entirely new form. The challenge of increasing the distance of my early riding was replaced by new challenges, such as descending down steep slopes (occasionally flights of stairs) or negotiating the twisting trails around some of the sandstone outcrops where I was working.
For a few years, that same bike was my entire means of transport. I had moved to a city and commuted several hundred miles a week. Most of my journeys were along a seafront and the bike was the quickest way to get from A to B without being in the traffic. For me, there is something like going out to play about a mountain bike even when riding on the tarmac. It’s a robust bike, which enables you to go anywhere (albeit not necessarily fast). It reminded me of the adventures I had enjoyed in my teens.
Then I hit another of those life junctions, where something you love doing can so easily get put to one side and forgotten about. I became not just a parent but a single parent. I had no wider family support, so it was just me and my very lovely son. For a couple of years, my bike lay unused again as I coped with the daily care and tiredness which comes with being a single parent.
Then I discovered the joy of bike trailers. That trailer enabled a new world of adventure. By now I was living on the edge of Dartmoor. There were regular rides out on the moor. My son was protected from any weather and had a small stash of toys and books in the trailer with him. We could stop for picnics in relatively remote locations.
Our greatest adventure at that time was riding Route 27, which runs South to North (other directions are available!) through Devon. We lived on the route, so picked it up from home and took a little detour at the end to stay near a beach, so my boy could have a ‘normal’ holiday for a few days.
If you look closely at the photo, you will see that in the trailer with him was our entire camping kit and clothes for the trip. The icing on the cake for him was that we also had a selection of inflatable toys which we could play with at each of the campsites we stayed at along the way. In personal and cycling development terms, that trip for me was the point when I realised I could combine being a mother with getting out and having adventures. Those adventures were also a great bonding time with my son. I had evolved into a new type of cyclist.
Those adventures with the trailer continued until my son was too big for it. At that point, I bought a tag-along bike. This initially limited the distance we could travel, especially in poor weather, but did enable us to continue getting out together. He used to sit on the back telling me he was being my second engine…
Kate Taylor BSc
British Cycling, British Triathlon, & IRONMAN Coach; Sports Specialist Yoga Teacher