Today's BBC weather forecast, like yesterday's, was somewhat off target. Just as we were getting ready to set out, rain came, about four hours ahead of schedule! In the end, vacillating between the intended trip and 'Plan B' (a long day trip to the National Cycle Centre at Manchester Velodrome) I eventually decided 'blow it, let's just get wet'. As we set off, the rain stopped.
We've lived in Northamptonshire for nearer three years than two now, but for various reasons have done precious little riding beyond the hundreds, if not thousands of laps of the bandstand we've done with the children, and the odd trip down the traffic-free path where I took Thomas Ivor to practice riding a laden bike. It is therefore something of a surprise to discover that even by British standards of driving, the attitude towards cyclists round here is very poor indeed.
Over the last few weeks I've been purposely driving round our town and its environs by odd routes, trying out different permutations and scouting out bits of cycling infrastructure. I've found very little that I would choose to use with the children, and pretty much none that I would use on my own. Width restrictions. Chicanes. Poorly maintained surfaces. STUPID DOG WALKERS! There's a rant for another piece of its own one day if ever there was one. As ever, contrary to the perception of most non-cyclists we talk to, we felt much more at home and safe on the road, being 'buzzed' by idiots in Evoques and Audis who didn't trouble to leave us much room or indeed see if anyone was coming the other way.
Anyhow, there was a purpose to our trip today. Thomas Ivor arrived from Devon last night for an unexpectedly lengthy weekend visit at the end of his half term, about which we are very happy. I decided that with the turn of the season, I really should fit the Busch and Muller lamp brackets we were kindly sent by the rep whom the girls and I met at the NEC recently.
A nearby airfield also plays host to a cracking nut and bolt supplier, so going on the bikes and being able to be sure we had the right lengths and diameters was eminently sensible; £2:50 later we had everything we needed. The heavens opened on the way back but unperturbed Thomas Ivor and I braved it out, whilst the girls sat in the trailer singing nursery rhymes - snug, warm and dry. I have to say, despite the load it felt easier and the time passed more quickly than it does at the gym...
Tonight, Thomas Ivor has learned how to patch inner tubes and I have fitted his front lamp bracket as the first of the three that need doing. It always seems to be the case that fiddling with mudguards, racks and anything attached to your handlebars is always more bothersome than it ought to be. Something always won't reach, or isn't the right shape, or takes an age to adjust. I've learned to take satisfaction in getting it right rather than constantly being cheesed off about it, at which I am really rather pleased. It's good to involve the children in the mechanical tasks at a leisurely pace because it allows conversations you just can't have when you're fixing something on the road with time/light/patience/tools at a premium.
Thomas Ivor's Islabike now sports some new stainless steel rack bolts (one fell out somewhere in Lincolnshire and we forgot about it!), a set of lights nobody can claim they didn't see, his new Ortlieb bar bag has done the business and I'm not sure there will be a better-specced touring version out there. If and when he picks up his first puncture on it, after tonight, he should be able to fix that, too!