Monday, 28 September 2015

W(h)at(t) Bike?

One of the big differences between Katie and me is our historical approach to exercise. I have ridden my bike, historically, for utility, and for the joy of travelling, more than as a form of disciplined physical training. Katie, on the other hand, was not so long ago a competitive rower, in the gym six days a week, on the river at least two days, cycling a fair mileage to do so. She had a trainer emailing her to dictate our diet; a fit ball long before she was pregnant. Weights. Eating and drinking strange concoctions in tins.

It gave me something of a fright, then, when, after a happy summer's cycling but with an eye on our expanded waistlines (and my plantar fasciitis, and my dicky knee, and my total lack of core stability) and to get the girls swimming, Katie announced her intention to investigate joining a gym.

It's funny how you can get to your thirties and still have never done, even once, certain things which others do every day.
  • I have never been inside a bookmaker's shop.
  • I have never, even entered a high street travel agency, let alone sat down in one to have someone wearing too much makeup operate a computer for me, to show me misleading pictures of places they've never visited themselves.
  • I have never eaten a KFC meal. Not even the chips.
  • I have never paid someone to wax, pierce, doodle on or chop off any part of me.
I was going to say I haven't eaten horse, but I once ate a Tesco lasagne and I don't want to mislead; I have been to Nando's, once. Popular as it is with Alan Partridge and Glen Ponder, I'm glad I don't have to go again.

So when Katie chirped up that she was looking at a gym membership for us, the alarm bells went off. I have never entered a private gym. I've seen enough Facebook status updates and #epicfail videos to put me off. I've watched the 'Brittas Empire'. Why, I reasoned, would anyone drive to a building, to pay to ride their bike or run on the spot, before driving home? That's potty. Why would I do that? I could just ride my bike to the gym, save a fortune by not going in, and ride home again.

It was with some, trepidation, then, that I decided to 'stand on the wasp' and pay a visit to one of these hitherto bewildering institutions on Saturday evening.

An hour later, and with both girls having pooped in the nice man's office following the tour, I came out having ticked something off my list. I'd seen a swimming pool that looked more like a hotel's than a municipal leisure centre. I did see, as I feared mirror-walled rooms full of what looked like instruments of torture. I saw people of both genders and all ages in neon clothes, doing the oddest things whilst watching TV.

I was shown the 'spin room', which is nothing to do with the impending political party conferences, where fifty people can ride without anyone crashing, puncturing or even being overtaken. Not that I would be sure to be able to do so, because the seat doesn't go very high on the bikes. My enthusiasm was evaporating in the presence of all these people working hard to go nowhere.

I did, however, amongst the predictably intimidating surroundings, identify a glimmer of hope - something that might offer me a familiar(ish) way in to this strange world. It had a seat and bars that looked like a road bike's. I threw the seat as high as it would go, to try it for size, and discovered it had SPD pedals and actually felt strangely familiar. This was the 'bike that's not a bike' that could tempt me away from my reluctant and uncomfortable stints on the turbo trainer in the lounge. If it's good enough for Mark Beaumont and developed with British Cycling, then I shouldn't turn my nose up at it. It was a WattBike.

A WattBike could be mine for about £30 a week, but for a fraction of that, taking advantage of the facilities being quieter during the day, when I would be most likely to go, I can indeed drive ten minutes from the house and go for a structured training ride whatever the weather is doing - well, it will if I spend £99 on a longer seat post to take with me!

I still feel like I am never going to be one of the 'gym set', and I am unlikely to be seen lifting weights or drinking protein shakes any time soon, but ,aybe, just maybe, taking the girls for a swim and then dropping them off for just an hour will cause me to ride in a more structured way, to reclaim some sustainable long-term fitness in between touring outings, and not to blame the multitude of familiar excuses (some of them good ones) that can stop me getting out on the bike more often than I do.

Do you, and/or your family use a gym, or do you train at home and on the road? What do you think we should do? Leave us a comment below!

Friday, 25 September 2015

On Show

I wish we'd had the chance to go the Cycle Show in Birmingham this weekend, but pressures of family and Katie's work meant that if we were to go, the girls and I had to go today.

A big show at the NEC, preceded by and hour on the train, preceded by an hour on the bus, is a big ask for the three of us, and I'd already 'spent some tokens' with Ruth and Rhoda by the time we arrived. As a result I can't claim to have had the most comprehensive visit, and I never did get a picture of Chris Boardman's famous Lotus Monocoque, which I last saw at Leicester Velodrome (RIP) just after he took the hour record on it, longer ago than I care to remember.

Nevertheless, it was good to talk to all kinds of folk, old friends, representatives of tourist boards, purveyors of all kinds of interesting and exciting products, even a man who assured me he could do something to fix my plantar fasciitis, with some magic computer-generated orthotics! We also enjoyed talking to people considering taking up cycle touring with children and even got to have a sneaky trial, in stroller mode, of what will become the 2016 Croozer trailer, which proved to be the perfect tool for settling her down for her afternoon nap...

If you're serious about your cycling, it's well worth visiting the show this weekend.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Fame at last

Family ByCycle's very own Ruth has made an appearance on the GCN show!

Scroll forward to 16:20 to see her in action. Well done, Ruth!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Desert Storm rolls out

A rather sad day for the Family ByCycle today as Thomas Ivor left us for the impending school term. He'll be back in three weeks for a visit.

The good news is that 'Desert Storm' - the second-hand Islabikes 'Beinn 20' we picked up for him the other day, has gone with him, so he now has the means to keep riding whilst he's in Devon. We've kitted the bike out to a rather different spec, dispensing with racks and guards for now, fitting the OE knobbly tyres at lower pressures, a toolkit and basic computer from Aldi - oh, and the obligatory colour co-ordinated Islabikes bottle!

After the washout of a bank holiday, which put paid to us having the couple of days touring that we'd hoped for, we were able to head out to the park this morning to start filming our review of the 'Beinn', which can now include some comparison between pre- and post-2012 models, and show the bike in different incarnations - colours, accessories and the like.

It will fall to me to do most of the filming now, and then hopefully we can get a script written between us so Thomas Ivor can do some 'voice over' work next time we see him. We hope that we will be able to persuade more parents (and children!) of the value of a properly-sized, lightweight bike, in helping youngsters to get riding more proficiently at a younger age, with fewer of the distractions and hindrances all too commonly experienced.

The little guy had his first try at using a lavalier microphone today, which complicated the costume changes a little, and we had an incident with a flat battery, but we're gradually getting there with our new video production setup. GCN, eat your heart out!

On location with a pair of 'Beinns'
Hopefully the coming winter will give us all the opportunity to cook up some exciting plans for another adventure next year. Thomas Ivor has been watching 'The man who cycled the Americas'  this week (again!) and has an idea about doing his own version of Mark Beaumont's epic trip...

As Thomas Ivor has departed, the girls have been out of sorts today, but with more good weather I'm hoping to have them both out on the balance bike again before long. Meantime, it's galettes for tea tonight. Fourth night running!