And now for something entirely trivial…
I promised something lighter this week, although it’s actually a bit heavier than I had expected. About 2 kilograms heavier, I think.
There is a formula for the optimal number of bikes someone should have (so I am told, admittedly by someone who kept his bikes in his bathroom in his last place). The formula is n + 1, where n is the number of bikes you currently have. There is a bike for off-road, one for long distances, one for pure speed, one for the track, one for commuting… for example. Because n + 1 is infinite. But the bike that probably doesn’t get onto the list of “must have”s is one I have just bought. But I think it is the answer to the questions I have been grappling with for years.
- How can I get a bike, a harp and two daughters into a Honda Jazz?
- How can I avoid the utter mindless frustration and emotional outbursts from it taking 30 minutes to drive the last 1.6 miles from school to work in the morning?
- How do I balance the obvious advantage of a car on country roads when I hardly use any petrol at all with the equally manifest advantages of a bike once I get within 5 miles of the city centre and everything grinds to a halt?
- And how can I get around the city faster during the day for meetings, festival events (counting down the weeks until the Book Festival, Fringe and official Edinburgh International Festival), getting something from the only shop in Edinburgh that sells [insert random object that I actually do need].
Put like that, the answer is obvious. But I had to discount leaving a bike at school (gates are locked outside of school hours, for one thing, and I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be my bike park), sticking a bike on the car roof (every day? I think not) and getting an electric bike so I could just do the whole trip by bike (I remembered the bit about taking girls to school).
So I bought a folding bike. It sits happily in the boot of the car…
…beside the harp if necessary, it’s always ready to go (about 30 seconds to put everything into place)…
it has lights and mudguards – so totally practical – and it’s just fun.
Ready to go…anywhere
I mean, when was the last time you rode a bike and had a small child call out “that’s a cool bike” as you sailed by on your tiny wheels that don’t feel tiny at all. I mean, the thing just flies along, I have to remember not to go so fast along the canal path that, very helpfully, takes me pretty much from school to work – no need to go on a road at any point. But slowing down is more about the fact that I am doing the ride in my suit, not my lycra (you’re all welcome).
Door to door for the school to work leg is about the same as the car journey on a decent day, faster than on a bad traffic day, slower than on a school holiday day, but there is one critical difference that cannot be measured in minutes saved or lost. I arrive with a smile on my face. Just like when I do the whole trip on my single speed bike in summer when I don’t need to take anyone else with me. Yes, you can get between the Borders and Edinburgh on a bike with no gears, including up all the hills, and it’s consistently faster than on my bike that has twenty something gears. You just ride more efficiently and learn the value of momentum and just deciding to get up the hill (I always end up overtaking other bikes uphill because you don’t have the option of slowing down and changing gears – you just go for it).
On my little Brompton, I think I get the best of both worlds and the ability to get around extremely efficiently. We will see how things pan out in winter…
My plan is to take it with me to London for the two meetings I have there in the next month. Office to train station = 15 minutes faster than walking, then no need to take the Tube in London (woohoo!), and I get to arrive with a smile on my face again. Assuming I don’t get lost, I suppose.
It might not be the bike on everyone’s list, but I’ve already fallen in love with it.