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.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Plotting and Planning - The Extra-Curricular Curriculum

Thomas Ivor had a surprise in the post this morning:

We had given up on being able to take him, but being around on a weekday at the moment means I was able to book for him to see his hero and inspiration Mark Beaumont next month. We're very excited!

One of the pieces of advice Mark gave to Thomas Ivor was to spend his winter planning his next adventure. Over the past week or so Thomas Ivor has been finding opportunities to prepare his planning skills, too. We have been out on map-reading exercises, learned about ratio in relation to map scales, built a contour map of an island we sailed past on our 2014 trip to the Outer Hebrides, and as his test piece I have left him to use all the resources on my bookshelves to plan hypothetical adventures in this country and abroad, from route choice to finding accommodation.

This work has culminated in us starting to look at how to 'carve up the Elephant' for Thomas Ivor's 2016 challenge. Taking inspiration from Mark Beaumont's trip from Alaska to Argentina, when he also climbed Denali and Aconcagua, Thomas Ivor has challenged himself to climb the 'Three Peaks' - Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, and to cycle between them.

Constraints of budget, time, childcare and our inability to cross the Lakeland fells with the trailer on the back (I think we'll save the Fred Whitton for when the children have grown up!) mean that he can't do it all in one go - indeed, it will be a significant challenge to get it all done this year. We reckon we're looking at 15 days of riding, plus the three climbs, which we will need to do during the better weather.

I often find this part of the process a very therapeutic one, but looking at it from the perspective of a home educator it's amazing just how much you can teach a child through the process - not just humanities subjects, either, but maths, physics and languages, too...

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

A Flying Start

Last night's outing to our local cycling club was a runaway success. Thomas Ivor had a great time weaving in and out of cones on the tennis courts, they rode individually and in groups, concluding with a 'girls vs boys' team time trial, teaching them to ride for one another.

I've been involved in all sorts of activities for children, and all sorts of clubs and societies over the years, and was really impressed with the organisation, planning and skill that went into the evening. Every child got personal encouragement and feedback, and it was clear from the other parents present that it's a very popular group.

There being something of a Cyclocross bent to the session, Thomas Ivor came away wanted to sort out flying dismounts. A bit of GCN watching later, we set off to the park with the girls to give it a go.

I think it's safe to say that he's well on with it...

We're really looking forward to next time. Desert Storm is coming back, and I have some knobbly tyres to re-fit!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Joining the club

Changes to Thomas Ivor's living arrangements mean that he has been able to do something he has wanted to try for a long time - joining a cycling club.

This is a new set of circumstances for me, too, having never been to a sports activity as a parent. As a matter of personal pride, 'Ben' has therefore been up on the workstand this afternoon, for a thorough 'wash and brush-up' ahead of his first outing tonight!