Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Book Review by Thomas Ivor - 'Land's End to John o'Groats - The ride that started it all' by Sean Conway

Sean Conway is an adventurer. He used to be a photographer in London. He has cycled around the world and done the longest triathlon around Britain amongst many more big adventures. I was lucky enough to meet Sean at Yestival so that’s why I have read his book. He has written many books but I have just read his first, ”Land’s End to John o’Groats - the ride that started it all”. It was great. 

Sean used to fly to hot beaches in other countries for his holidays. He was then forced to go to places closer to home because he remembered that he wasn’t related to Richard Branson and didn’t have enough money. He was looking for something adventurous, fun and challenging. He looked at doing an adventure somewhere far away, dangerous and big but it’s expensive to do those kinds of adventures, so and he looked if he could do one in the UK. He made a list of all the places he had been to in the UK and most of them he hadn’t been to.Sean decided that he would do something in Britain, so he decided to try cycling from Land’s End to John o’Groats. For his trip he raised money for charity to save hedgehogs that were ill. 

Sean started his epic voyage in 2008, he had given himself 4 weeks to do around 1300 miles. I liked his idea of adding on extra adventures to make an even bigger adventure, like when he climbed Ben Nevis and added the Orkney Isles on to the trip. 

 Sean’s journey took him through Cornwall and Devon, which was tough, going down small country lanes and sleeping in a hostel in Exeter where lots of people snored and talked in the night. The Lake District he battled hills in, the Lake District, where he is living in his dream home for the winter this year. 

On the way, he received kind offers of food, money (a guy in a pub even gave him £84 for charity) and free things; Sean also stayed with family and friends. 

Sean took his mascot ‘little flying cow’ for company. He was quite funny. He called Sean an idiot and Sean said “Shut up or I will leave you in that ditch”! At other times Sean just liked the sound of nothing. 

On my #CycloClimbGB adventure I will be cycling some of the route that Sean cycled, like around Windermere, the road to Fort William and climbing Ben Nevis. 

I think that this book is suitable for adventurers that are just getting started and need to come up with an idea, or other children that want to find adventure by reading about it so that they are ready to have their own ideas for the future. 

I have now started Sean’s other book "World cycling stripped bare", because I loved the first book and I want to cycle around the world one day, too. 

"Land’s End to John O’Groats - the ride that started it all" by Sean Conway is published by Mortimer Lion Publishing. 

Kindle price: £5.99 
Paperback: £7.99

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Awards and Rewards

It was a great pleasure a week or so ago to attend the Kettering Cycling Club dinner, where just for once, I was the recipient of a cycling award (rather than the children!) in recognition of services to the 'Cyclones', our junior section, which Thomas Ivor joined back at the start of the year.

Thomas Ivor joined me for what turned out to be his first Indian meal! It was great to be recognised, along with others from the Cyclones, amongst the club as a whole, and alongside some seriously talented riders receiving their pots for the season.

I first took Thomas Ivor along back in February, anticipating that he might benefit from some bike handling practice and fresh eyes on his technique, and wow, what a journey! He's raced cyclo-cross in muddy Northamptonshire fields, lapped race circuits at Mallory Park and Rockingham, and all manner of things in between, including winning his race on the finish line at the Women's Tour stage finish in the summer, and standing atop the podium. He's made friends, something he doesn't always find easy amongst his peers, thanks to a shared interest. 

Even Ruth has had the opportunity to pull on the orange and black colours, even if taking part in her first race caused Daddy to have to run the entire course alongside her!

It's been a most enjoyable year, even though we haven't been able to get involved to the fullest extent we might have wished. The Cyclones are a wonderful group of kids, from all backgrounds, and they are fortunate to benefit from the endeavours of skilled, dedicated and enthusiastic coaches. To have contributed my photographic skills, and some encouragement from the sidelines, has been a great pleasure, and we look forward to further opportunities for all three children in the years ahead, to enjoy their cycling as part of a team, as well as part of a family. Who knows, we may yet introduce some of the families to the joys of touring...

Cycling clubs across the country are joining British Cycling's 'Go Ride' programme. Find out about events near you on the British Cycling Go-Ride website and click here to read about my experience of Thomas Ivor's first 'Go-Ride' race!

Friday, 4 November 2016

Review: The New Alpkit Wombat / Small Koala (by Thomas Ivor Jones, Aged 8)

The new Alpkit 'Wombat'
Panniers - old school!
I do long distance cycling trips and I’ve been trying to find a way of carrying my luggage without a rack and panniers on my Islabikes Luath 24. I used to use panniers on my Beinn 20 Large, but now I am riding a road bike I wanted to do something a bit different and have a setup like Mark Beaumont used on his ‘Africa Solo’ trip. That's how I ended up buying the new Alpkit 'Wombat'.

Before I had been told about these new Wombats, I was using an Alpkit Airlock Xtra 5 litre dry bag with dual straps and a custom built Stingray which I got for my birthday. My Stingray fits really well and I have not experienced any problems with it so far, but I needed some more storage space.

I couldn’t get a full size Koala because the space between my saddle and back wheel was too small. My solutions would have been to have a custom seat pack made or to just have a rear rack and panniers.

I went to Alpkit with my bike, King Louis, and met Connie, who showed and told me all about this brand new product called a Wombat which is a 7 litre expedition seat pack. Connie said that the new product might solve my problem but it was so new that it wasn't for sale yet!

When Connie brought out the Wombat I thought it looked like someone had taken a Koala and put it through a shrink ray! I put on my Stingray and the dry bag on my handlebars and Connie let me have a ride around the car park with the Wombat and some other products to try.

I ended up with only one of the saddle straps on the seat post but apart from that it  fitted nicely. I did not feel the seat pack at all when I was riding. I only noticed it only when getting on and off the bike because I have to make sure that my leg goes over the bag.

I went for the colour ‘steel’ which is grey in real colours but it is also sold in yellow, ‘chilli’ (red), black and ‘flo orange’.

The price is £70 which is the same price as the Koala. You can now find it for sale on the Alpkit website.

I love the Wombat; it’s just what I had been looking for. I am hoping to put a lightweight sleeping bag or some clothes in mine. I wish it could be waterproof but there is nothing stopping you putting a dry bag inside it if you need to. I also have had a small fuel pod (top tube bag) and a stem cell (for my water bottle).

I would highly recommend the Wombat to children with a 20 inch wheel or larger (depending on the actual bike) who want to carry things without needing panniers, or grown-ups who haven't got so much to carry. If adults have more to put in their bag, they could either use a Koala or the new Big Papa.

Thank you so much Connie and others at Alpkit for helping me to make my dream come true of having my own mini bike packing setup.

PS: The Wombat has been renamed and is now called the 'Small Koala' - my sister Ruth has got one now, as well!

Coming soon... Tom's perspective on creating a bikepacking setup for adventurous children. For now, why not read about Thomas Ivor's speaking trip to Yestival?

Monday, 31 October 2016

Yestival 2016 in retrospect - A post by Thomas Ivor

I love Yestival, this year was my first time there and it was amazing. It was all held in a field near Pulborough in Sussex last weekend.

Yestival is all about meeting up with fellow adventurers and talking about your adventures in a big way which is what helped me come up with my own ideas. 

I met extraordinary adventurers like The Simonsen family, Jo Pickard, Dan Keely, Will Copestake, the Meek family, the Coxless Crew, Adam Conlon, Danny Bent, Dave Cornthwaite and TV adventurer Sean Conway. I had been invited to speak along with these amazing people.

There were tents that would be for the speakers to talk in, and the tents were called: Amazon, Mississippi, Nile, The Big Yes and Dreamcamp, which was the children’s area.

To prepare for the weekend, Daddy and I wrote a new talk. It was my first time speaking without slides, so I had to get my cue cards written and printed out so I could then rehearse them.

The day before, I got out all of the things that I would need to sleep in and my other things that I would need for my talk. (Bike, stand, luggage etc).

Finally we got in the car at 6:30 on Saturday morning and set off to go to Yestival. On the way there I practised my cards.

After a long journey round the M25 we arrived and were welcomed with open arms.

First, I listened to the first pitches of the day to see what it is like because I would need to do a pitch for my talk. You needed to wait your turn, and then tell everyone what your talk would be about - but you only got 20 seconds to speak! The audience then decided who they wanted to go and listen to.

Next, I had a look in the tent that I would be speaking in at lunchtime, which was the Amazon tent.

I had a small stage to stand on, a table, and my audience sat on hay bales. I also had my bike King Louis stood in front of me.

I set up quite early so that when my audience arrived I was ready to go.

Soon the time came. I was up against Dan Keely, The Coxless Crew and Tim and Kerry Meek, who all had very exciting adventures to talk about, too! I had rehearsed my pitch so I fired away and told everybody that was talking at 12:00 in the Amazon tent, about how to have adventures even if you have to work or go to school.

The crowd clapped and cheered!

I ended up with about 50 people coming to my talk called “Notes from a small cyclist”.

The main idea I was sharing is to get yourself a dry-wipe map and stick it on the wall of any room in your house where you will see it every day. You can plan adventures on the map every day, and pick the best ones to break up into chunks so you can actually do them. I explained how I am doing this myself, and about my #CycloClimbGB challenge to climb the ‘Three Peaks’ and cycle between them.

I had some maps with me, for the audience to try planning an adventure on, and I got them to share their ideas.

At the end, I got nearly a full standing ovation for my effort! I felt very proud of myself.

Dave Cornthwaite (the organiser of Yestival) came up to me at lunch break and asked me if I was up for doing a shortened version of my first talk in front of a crowd of 400 people at 7:00pm.
He asked me in particular because the people that came to my talk had given him good reports about my talk so he said “we can’t give you 30 mins but just come up for 5 - 10 minutes and just show the world what you are made of”.

My talk had been written to last nearly half an hour, so Daddy and I laid my original cue cards out on the floor of the car boot and shuffled them to make a shorter version.

Next I put my own tent up in a field next to Daddy and Katie’s tent.
I laid out my sleeping bag and mat and got everything ready, because I thought I might have a late finish!

Soon it was time for my second talk. Adam Conlon gave me lots of advice for the talk and introduced me to Sean Conway while I was waiting to go on.

I had joke in my talk about Sean eating dog food when he was running around the coast, so I asked him about it. Sean said that he did eat the dog food on the run and it took him two solid days before he finished all of the packets because it was revolting! I had a picture with Sean and he kindly promised that he would ride with me somewhere in the Lake District. I got a wave from Sean in the audience when I mentioned him in my talk.

I felt very nervous at first because I was speaking in front of so many people this time, but in the end I just thought ‘how did I get here?’ - it was amazing. I talked for 10 minutes and afterwards I got another standing ovation! Katie said she heard the roar from the audience, and she was in the next field getting my sisters to sleep!

My jokes worked fine and King Louis got a very warm welcome from everyone. I hope people will take away what I have told them in my talks and try it.

The lady after me, Jo Pickard said firstly “Well thanks a bundle Thomas Ivor!”. Daddy said this was because I was a tough act to follow!

I was very tired after my talk but I tried to hold on until Sean Conway spoke. I was extremely tired now; it was 9:30 at night so I couldn’t take in as much as I could earlier in the day.

The weather forecast had said that it would be 7 degrees overnight but when I got back to my tent at 10:00 there was frost on my tent! It was a cold night in the tent but I was so tired it was very easy to get to sleep!

I really enjoyed speaking but I also had a great time enjoying the rest of the event and meeting some exceptional people. A man called Will Copestake offered to climb Ben Nevis with Daddy and me.
He’s climbed all the ‘Munros’ and kayaked around the top of Scotland.

My favourite talk during the day was the Simonsen family because they had Hobie kayaked from Denmark to Istanbul!

There is just one thing that I was not very happy about which is that I had to miss out some talks that were going on at the same time as mine or others.

My little sister Ruth’s favourite thing at Yestival was catching dreams. Rhoda’s favourite thing was the food. I loved the food, I think it was well served and it all went with adventure. Thank you for supplying us all with something to eat!

At Dreamcamp the girls enjoyed having their faces painted just like scary lions!

I would like to say a big thank you to Dave Cornthwaite for inviting me and to his team for encouraging me throughout the weekend. I hope we will be able to go again next year!

You can watch my evening talk on YouTube, here:

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Too much, too soon, or too little, too late? Thoughts on childhood and opportunity.

We've had some really lovely responses to the video we posted yesterday.

It's prompted me to write a little about a couple of fundamental principles we apply - that just because most children of a certain age don't do a particular thing, it doesn't mean ours shouldn't; and that to presume we have nothing to learn from our children limits our own horizons.

So often, children of our kids' generation get precious little chance to be children. They are burdened with pressure and responsibility they don't need, given choices to make that would best be made for them, and exposed to things they just don't need to know about. We live in a society that does all that, and then has the temerity to wrap them in the most appalling kind of cotton wool. We're in an era where a parent can believe their irrational fear of the bogeyman can kibosh every other child and their families having photographs on a school sports day - if there are any actual sports at all and if indeed anyone is allowed to win. Children are prevented or at the very least dissuaded from going outside to play, and then left in front of computer screens and televisions bringing them far more risk and brain-rot than they'd have found in the street.

This week sees the launch of the latest film adaptation of the classic 'Swallows and Amazons' and the director, bless them, has decided both that the original storyline isn't exciting enough for today's kids, and that a child nicknamed 'Titty' is now a problem. On the contrary, by my reckoning the biggest anathema for the children watching the film, and the most exciting prospect, will most likely be the idea of playing in the great outdoors, never mind doing it without 'elf an' safety or other politically correct spoilsportism (if that's not a word, I've just made it one!).*

It would be all too easy for me just to whinge about that, but we've learned that opportunities to do something about it are still abundant, if parents take it upon themselves to lead from the front whilst the state still lets us (even if it has long since decided no longer to actually advocate this pernicious, maverick approach, or make it easy for working families to do it).

The greatest disservice children today suffer from is paucity of expectation, of smiling dream-assassins determining what they may or may not try to do, with a predetermined agenda of troubling themselves as little as possible - and so as a family we delight in setting the bar high, making opportunities and cheering the children on to go for it, because they usually can (in their own way) and because it's exciting! Engaged children are, frankly, much easier to parent, so we're doing ourselves a favour, too. It isn't always easy - one day I will write the blog post about 'taking a child cycling vs going for a ride on your own' - but it's seldom without reward.

Few people expect a little girl of three to be riding a trailerbike helping to tow her little sister all afternoon, less still to be learning to read the map as she goes. The faces as we pass people say it all. Nobody expects said little girl to help to film, and then record the voiceover for, a film documenting the trip, but as cute as we may think it is (whether anyone else does is another matter - it's our job!) pivotally, Ruth is so, so proud of herself. That little film will now be the springboard to something else. Having tried the trombone, she's asking to learn the violin. Who knows, maybe she's planning to busk round Spain like Laurie Lee, and latterly Alastair Humphreys.

Maybe for your family and your children it's not even bicycle touring but some other activity or interest you love, that you want to adapt to make it family friendly. Give it a go! I'm sure you can find a way.

One of the biggest motivators for Family ByCycle, is not to say 'look at our kids aren't they incredible' (that's the kind of sickening self-promotional bilge we all whizz merrily past on our Facebook timelines, let's be honest), and in any case we don't hold all the answers, but hoping to encourage other parents 'you can do this, too!' - we dare to dream that we can help build a critical mass of families with children whose horizons are as broad as they can be, who dare to dream, who participate in and explore the world, yes, as children, not as frustrated, stressed little adults, neither constrained to their peer group and the expectations of others. After all, who as an adult surrounds themselves only with people born within a year , and a few miles, of them?

Thomas Ivor's talk about cycle touring as a child received a wonderful reception at the Cycle Touring Festival in Clitheroe earlier in the year, and he's delighted to have accepted an invitation to speak at this Autumn's 'Yestival'. We're especially looking forward as a family to participating in the 'Dreamcamp' part of the event, in the hope not only of inspiring kids to think big, look far and aim high, but for the adults to receive from them a healthy dose of childlike wonder and enthusiasm. I'd rather be blindly accused of 'too much, too soon', than any of our family grow old to realise we did 'too little, too late'.

Why not join us there and give it a go?

Read more on this topic in another post from a little while ago...

* Yes, I know about Pokemon. It will pass. Again. I predict that the gaggle of people staring at their smartphones outside the council offices late at night will not survive a single winter!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Inspiration for the infants

We had a super night out in London last week, to hear the mighty Anna McNuff speak at Dave Cornthwaite's 'YesStories' event. Taking the little two into town on the train is a #Microadventure in its own right!

Ruth and Rhoda are by far the youngest ever attendees to this event - and it's always something of a lottery when you take children to something they might not necessarily be expected at! Luckily, they received a wonderful welcome and acquitted themselves pretty well, despite an inopportune event with the reappearance of a half-chewed dried apricot during the main event. We really enjoyed Anna's new talk, 'Let me tell you about a time when...', and she coped wonderfully with both the live regurgitation and periodic heckling from her young fans. We are very grateful to her for her kindness and interest, and for blazing a trail for little girls like ours to follow.

In Mr Cornthwaite's 'Just say yes' spirit, and with the car's bike carrier finally fixed, I didn't have much choice, then, but to take the girls for a bike ride (Thomas Ivor is away this week) the following day, so we went to finish off the Brampton Valley Way, which I will write a separate review about shortly. We've been gradually crossing off different parts of it for a little while now.

Over two days, Ruth has done 20 miles on the trailerbike, Rhoda a lap of a car park, and the 'Bike+Trailerbike+Trailer' combination has been well and truly tested pending Katie's annual leave. By taking the double Croozer we can use it as a 'broom van' to sweep Ruth up if her little legs decide enough is enough; we can't speak highly enough of the Islabikes trailerbike (very sadly no longer made and still commanding decent money second hand). It confers a significant weight saving over the Trek Mountain Train we used in the Hebrides in 2014 and much improved stability thanks to the rack mount system, and whilst a little on the long side (a couple of feet longer overall than the double WeeHoo, we reckon) it is a remarkably nimble and manoeuvrable outfit.

As ever, assuming we get that far this summer, we're developing another touring setup, with Thomas Ivor on his Islabikes Luath 24, now morphing into a 'bikepacking' setup thanks to our friends at Alpkit, who have made him a beautiful bespoke frame bag. Our replacement bikes seem to be doing the business, although I am reserving judgement on the strength of the wheels.

All things being equal, Ruth is off to cycling club tonight for a first ride in her own right, so for now, here's a video of our outing in the Brampton Valley, which we will talk about a little more, soon...

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Overtaken by events

It's been a little while since we've posted on the blog, although those of you who follow us on Twitter, @FamilyByCycle, will have an idea as to why!

The list of recent events waiting to be published (the pictures and some of the text having been put aside in preparation!) goes a little bit like this:

  • Thomas Ivor has met and ridden with touring legend Mark Beaumont, given his first illustrated lecture at the Cycle Touring Festival in Clitheroe, has moved house, started at a new school, won some more races, appeared on the podium at the Women's Tour of Britain, moved up to a larger bike, and climbed Scafell Pike as part of a project to climb and cycle between the 'Three Peaks'

  • Rhoda is balance biking and has progressed to using the Rothan rather than the Strider.

  • Ruth now has her Cnoc 14 and is riding confidently on her own two wheels. She has started to use our new Islabikes trailerbike, and then stopped again, and then started again, because...

  • Mummy and Daddy had our touring bikes stolen from the rack on the back of the car hours after this picture was taken. We lost both our Trek tourers, the Islabikes trailerbike rack, the bike carrier was badly mauled; the car damaged. We've replaced the bikes for the short term, and now the car's exhaust has dropped off in sympathy, a week before the MoT is due. We had a great time in Clitheroe and we've celebrated our wedding anniversary with a #Microadventure of our own, we've made a few little films, carried on finding ways to be adventurous and to ride bikes one way or another, and, er, neglected our blog.
We're still sourcing bits and fettling our new bikes with the hope of having some kind of a touring trip this summer when we had almost given it up as a bad job.

The good news is we have lots of things to write about and share, from the lows of seeing over £3000 of stuff stolen or broken outside our home, to the joys of seeing another child pedal off into the distance. We'll turn the story above into links to those individual tales, just as soon as we can, and we look forward to sharing our experiences once more.

Meantime, why not visit our YouTube Channel and subscribe? There are new films of all kinds on there and more in the pipeline...

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Go-Riding for Gold

"If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same..."
Rudyard Kipling

Thomas Ivor was in Devon for the weekend when the email came in to let me know that we were racing last night at the cycling club, in the first 'Go-Ride' event of the season that we're hosting.

'Desert Storm', still fortunately shod with knobbly tyres, was duly retrieved from the back of the 'Daddy Bus', where it had remained following an off-road trip to the country park a week or so ago. My crack team of bike mechanics (Ruth and Rhoda) were immediately all over it so we could be ready for action as soon as we'd fetched Thomas Ivor from school.

A trip to the park to re-set saddle height (a recurring theme at the moment - the lad's growing again!) culminated in some practice starts on the grass, which were going rather well until a foot slipped off a pedal and a shin got skinned. Cue wailing, gnashing of teeth, TCP, a bit more wailing, protestations that he wasn't going to race because he was mortally wounded and everyone was going to beat him anyway, and a strong talking to. Just like Brian Clough and his players, we had a talk about it and decided I was right. Bidons filled, Croozer loaded for the girls to sit in, we duly set off for Kettering.

I have to say, it was a slightly surreal experience pinning a racing number to my seven-year-old's jersey. I never took part in any competitive sport at Thomas Ivor's age, outside of school. Certainly not at anything I was any good at. This was the road less travelled!

After a thorough equipment check, off the lad went, circulating amongst boys and girls of all age groups in the warm-up. Dear me, this was really happening wasn't it. The girls settled in to their seats in the Croozer to watch 'Oliver' on the iPhone (one of my favourite wrinkles, that!) and I found myself in the pitch darkness preparing to photograph a ten-minute event like nothing I had ever covered before.

In my former life as a motor racing photographer I looked down the barrel of the lens at all kinds of race starts - but this time I had a vested interest like nothing else imaginable, being as I was, team manager, chief mechanic, motivational coach, team nutritionist and doctor, as well as photographer. That and being the rider's Dad. Frankly, I was more nervous than he was, if looks were anything to go by. 

I caught Thomas Ivor's eye as he lined up. The first corner, after a short grassy straight, was a dimly-lit square left bend round the outside of a tennis court fence, with a bit of a ditch and some bushes on the outside. They were all going to funnel into that like a stampede of very small, rather excitable and slightly tipsy cattle. He had to make the first corner, first, to stay out of trouble and avoid getting baulked from the off. I was glad we'd practised starting. I caught Thomas Ivor's attention, pointed to my own eyes in the international gesture for 'look right where I'm showing you', and passed my message. First corner, first. Own it, Son. A single, solemn nod of the head indicated our strategy was understood.

The start of an 'Under 8' race is a lot like watching children playing in the school band. There is a lot of looking sideways at the kid next to you for ideas, and everything happens in slightly delayed action. I fired off three frames before his right foot even landed on the pedal, but nevertheless, Thomas Ivor motored towards the first corner (can you say that any more, after the mechanical doping scandal?!) and got round cleanly before you could say 'ten minutes of effort now - pace yourself!'. He and the other six children disappeared down the back of the tennis courts like their lives depended on it.

If there's one thing that's become a dirty word in the world of primary education now, it's competition. Of course we want to encourage children who aren't the best, at a given activity. Of course we don't want people projecting their own baggage onto the children, but life in so many ways involves having to strive for things in competitive environments, and learning to deal with defeats and victories alike. "Like the Rudyard Kipling poem, ‘If’. You know that- ‘If’ you do X, Y and Z, Bob’s your uncle"

I am sure I'm not the only kid who grew up hearing inarticulate parents savaging their children, or worse still other people's children, at juvenile sporting events. It's unedifying to say the least. But by the same token, I couldn't just stand there and watch my little boy in the first race of his life, in silence. Mercifully, the boy in second place was ably supported by his Dad, who thought similarly. As the banter and repartee flowed, we each urged on our respective sons. Trying also to get some photographs for us and the other parents, I found myself running from one side of the course to the other so I could get two bites of the cherry per lap. It was mayhem.

It was about seven minutes in that he lost the back wheel and fell, on the exit of the first corner. My heart was in my mouth. Come on, Son. It's only pain. You can do this. With gritted teeth he threw himself back on the bike and went after his opponent. I've never seen resolve quite like it from him.

The bell was being readied when, in the twisty section coned out through the tennis court and Thomas Ivor dived for a tight right hand apex inside his rival, seizing the position and what I hoped, amidst the lapped children and Under 10s, was still the lead. "Keep going, Thomas! Up a gear, Son! Empty the tank!"

So it was, then, that by a slender margin, Thomas Ivor crossed the line to take the first victory of his career, in his first ever race. I didn't dare congratulate him in case I was wrong and someone had beaten him. He, meantime, hadn't realised that was the end of the race, and proceeded to put in another hot lap before we could stop him!

Sure enough, it turned out he had won after all.

Off he went to shake hands with 'Number 22' (and me with '22's Dad'!) - before turning to me and saying "I think I fell off six times. I don't think that was my best ride".

Following a period of transition and challenge for Thomas Ivor at home, it couldn't have come at a better time for him; a real confidence boost which was very much needed. As his soigneur drove him home, a tired little boy was heard to say, reflectively, "I never thought I could do anything like that". 

A certificate signed by both a certain Mr Kenny and a certain Miss Trott, and a gold medal, were the result of his night's work. I'm not sure who ultimately was most shocked or worn out, the rider or the rest of the team! Of course, the mechanic now has a bike to clean once more. The nutritionist has bidons to wash, there is kit to launder, the photographer has images to wire to proud grandparents, and the coach has to work out how to prepare their star rider for his next outing, including making sure he does his English homework...

Find out more about British Cycling's 'Go-Ride' programmes and races near you at

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


Following in little sister Ruth's footsteps, Thomas Ivor has made it onto the front of tonight's GCN Show, with a flying dismount!

Monday, 15 February 2016

Family ByCycle @LondonBikeShow '16

We were delighted to win tickets, courtesy of Islabikes, for this year's London Bike Show at ExCeL, in London's Docklands.

Thomas Ivor is between schools at the moment and the only chance we had for all three children to go was the Thursday, which was a shame in that we missed Mark Beaumont, Matt Stephens, Chris Boardman and Chris Hoy, amongst others, but was a blessing in that the show was relatively quiet, it being a school day.

One of the main reasons for wanting to go was actually to visit the Islabikes stand, our Northamptonshire home being nearer to the show than their base in Shropshire. This year we have two possible purchases in our sights - a 24" wheeled bike for Thomas Ivor, and a first set of pedals for Ruth.

Waiting for the train, Croozer packed flat, ready to go!

Three children, two of whom are ambulatory but not reliable and still require a considerable amount of paraphernalia, with just the one of me, represents something of a challenge on public transport, and so bearing in mind the success of our trip to the NEC last year, I decided to get brave and take the trailer to London on the train.

I knew that it was physically possible to get the trailer, I mean, pushchair (nomenclature is important!) dropped flat, onto the East Midlands Trains 'Meridian' on to St Pancras - it just takes time and practice to get it all ready, and ideally a hand from the platform staff to stop the little ones hurling themselves down the gap, which at Wellingborough, where we boarded, is considerable. Unfortunately, the double Croozer is about five inches too wide to get it in assembled.

The best news came when we got to London - and it was a little closer for comfort than I'd have liked, but it all worked!

Happily, we can report that we successfully got through the gates at St Pancras, into the lifts and through the ticket gates onto the sub-surface platforms and changed onto the Docklands Light Railway at West Ham and Canning Town. Both the new 'S' stock on the Underground, and the DLR trains, had ample capacity to admit us without causing anyone any bother. It would seem that the standard door opening of a lift on the Underground is about an inch or so wider than the trailer, so with care, we were able to roll straight in, arriving at ExCeL just in time for lunch.

Upon entering the show, mindful that the girls were likely to tire, we headed for the Islabikes stand on the far side of the hall. A lovely young lady by the name of Suzanne greeted us and took time with each of the children individually to give them a go on a bike. By the time Thomas Ivor and Ruth had had their turn, Rhoda just had to be let out for a spin on a Rothan!

The verdict? Well, Ruth is ready for the Cnoc 14 as soon as we are (£250 to find!).  She was almost managing to pedal but it's going to take some work, of course. Thomas Ivor's just had another inch and a half into the seat post on his Beinn 20s, but as yet isn't ready to make the move to the Luath 24, which nevertheless looks like the bike of choice, so that purchase can probably wait until the Autumn.

What with looking at bikes, Thomas Ivor riding a motorcycle, visiting various tourist boards' stands, watching people do ridiculous things on the climbing wall, street velodrome and BMX ramps, we had an action-packed afternoon. We traded Alan Partridge quotes with the man representing the Norfolk Broads, had some good-natured banter with some people trying to make cycling acceptable in the New Forest, and a bizarre encounter with a jobsworth who accused me of trying to kill Ruth by test driving a Babboe City cargo bike (which I loved, by the way) on the short test track - without a helmet! Horrors! The poor Dutch chap who demonstrated it to me must have wondered what all the fuss was about.

Ruth wasn't so much disappointed to be going home, as utterly raging. In fact, she made herself a bit sick, such was the magnitude of her displeasure at leaving the show. As always with little children we didn't get to do and see everything, but we had a wonderful time - and the knowledge that the Croozer Kid for 2 can get around London is a welcome piece of 'gen'...

We want to say a warm 'thank you' to the folk at Islabikes for their superb customer service, which as always lives up to the product's high standards, for the competition prize of the show tickets and for replacing Thomas Ivor's leg warmers, torn when he came off in the park the other week, which was a very kind gesture indeed.