Monday, 8 September 2008

Aaargh! Helmets!

Yesterday was the day of the much anticipated* church bike ride. As the weather was fine, we went ahead with it. There were five children and three adults going, which is a fairly respectable ratio. The plan was to cycle to the beach, about 3 1/2 miles away, and to have a picnic lunch. We would then return to church, then go home.

It started off well. We all gathered round with our bikes and everybody was happy. This lasted until the leader told us we were going to wear helmets. Seemingly, this was unacceptable. They are not cool, and make you look dorky, or something. One child (hereafter Recalcitrant #1) refused to move for about five minutes, so great was her indignity. She was only about 10, though...

I am pleased to report that my "new" bike is lovely - it has an impressive range of gears (compared to what I am used to), and will free-wheel for a long time after I stop pedalling. Actually, free-wheeling is the main reason I like cycling, I think. What other form of exercise allows you to look vaguely as though you are achieving something when you are actually just staying upright and avoiding bumping into things? It's almost the opposite of Pilates, which looks like you are doing nothing, but really hurts. I suppose that one has to put in effort to reach an acceptable speed, but with, say, jogging there is no free-wheeling. But I digress.

Anyway, I had a semi-wonderful time being back on a bike for the first time in many months, and we made it to the beach with no major incidents. The weather held, too - it hardly rained at all, and we even experienced some sunshine! We were met on the promenade by the car-using, food-carrying component of our group.

Once at the beach, the children went to play on what passes as sand round these parts. I went to the supermarket to procure a spoon, some baby wipes and lunch.** I returned with two sporks, some baby wipes and lunch. One child pronounced my double chocolate brownies to be "disgusting", which amused me. How does one reach that conclusion? Perhaps she was trying to be awkward. I had been worried that other people would finish my brownies, leaving none for me to take home; these worries were unfounded, thank goodness. Having been reminded of my brownies, I have just eaten a second one. Still yummy. When HWSNBN gets off his computer (he's killing aliens, I think), has a bath and presents himself to be fed, perhaps I can get something with nutritional value into me; until then, brownies it is.

Having played and eaten lunch, it was time to return home. Once again, helmets were not universally accepted. There was more resistance this time, although I am not sure what they expected to achieve. The way they were going to get home was on their bikes, and they were not allowed to ride them without helmets. I fear I may have made myself unpopular with my silent standing and waiting, punctuated with occasional offers to adjust helmets. I had given up suggesting that a high pony tail was perhaps not the thing to have when wearing a cycle helmet (I myself had my hair in bunches - forward planning and all that).

As Recalcitrant #1 had her bike leaning on mine, I was last to go, and followed her along the pier to the lighthouse. At one point she stopped riding, so I stopped too. After a few minutes I got bored and started up again. I assume that she thought I was going to talk to her, as she started up again, too, albeit without her helmet. I didn't think I was going to win that argument, nor was I going to get that close, so she returned to the group without her helmet on.*** When we were ready to return home, Recalcitrant #1 cycled very slowly indeed to the main road, and again on the roundabout. Perhaps she wanted to die. Alas, I was behind her and so more of a target for vehicles which actually wanted to go places. A much larger target, too.

Having crossed over the roundabout (and, thankfully, in a nice wide cycle lane on a slow road), Recalcitrant #2 (aged 11) decided to try it on. She declared that she was not going to wear a helmet. I declared that she was, and us adults agreed that she was not going anywhere without it on. She put it on and refused to move while wearing it. I laughed at her and said that we would wait, which we did. After a surprisingly short amount of time (seriously - I was amazed), she moved along, very sulkily. We made it back to the dedicated cycle track with no more incidents, and had been going for nearly 1/4 of a mile before Recalcitrant #2 undid her helmet strap. Another standoff ensued, in which one of her parents was called. She complained that we had been making her wear the helmet too tightly, which we had not; we had given up with making her wear it for her protection, and were content that she had it on her head with the strap fastened.

Eventually, she accepted that she was going to wear the helmet, and she and Recalcitrant #1 set off very slowly. They soon seemed to forget that they looked so incredibly uncool and stupid and started cycling at an appropriate speed and chatting, at which point the ride started to be fun. Thank goodness.

Towards the end of the ride, we lost the Recalcitrants - they made their own way back. Damn. I took the two lovely ones, who behaved like real people, back. We went down rather a large hill, which is always fun.

Upon arriving back at church, I found that I did not have enough strength left to lift my bike back into my car, which was unfortunate and embarrassing. Not that anyone noticed, except for me and the new scratch in my car door. I really must make it so that I am fit enough to cycle for 7 miles at an average speed of, I would guess, about 6 mph, and still able to do what I could do before such a ride. I'm glad I went with slow people, though - normally I cycle as fast as I can sustain, and I suspect that I would have damaged myself using that policy yesterday. I would also have gone a far more interesting route, except that I wouldn't, because my bike would have stayed at home, rather than coming to church with me - it's about 12 miles away. I am so not cycling that route, as my organ music is too heavy (no storage facilities at church), and the route is very dangerous a lot of the way - cars at 50-60 mph, with the cycle lanes there when they are not really necessary, and disappearing when they are essential, because the road isn't wide enough (that is why they are essential, and also why they are not there - it's not worth investing in making the road wider for cyclists, apparently).

When I got home, I waited for HWSNBN to return to extract my bike. That was useful. I like it when he is useful.

In conclusion, children can sometimes be awkward and petty. Who knew?

*It was much anticipated by some of the children - I wasn't all that keen.

**I can't eat gluten, so the provided sandwiches were not an option for me, and I was too lazy to prepare lunch in advance, especially considering that we were going to be next to my favourite gluten-free supermarket.

***I know - I can't believe I'm writing this, either. Bored yet?

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