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EmilyGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 15-Oct-14 13:06:39

Like riding a bike...

Author Hilary Boyd describes how cycling has helped her adjust to leaving the hustle and bustle of London life for a more rural existence on the coast of England. And, how riding a bike has reminded her that you're never too old to take up a new hobby!

Hilary Boyd


Posted on: Wed 15-Oct-14 13:06:39


Lead photo

Hilary Boyd

I’d call myself a Londoner. I’ve lived in the city for sixty plus years. Do I love it? Not sure, I sort of take my relationship with the place for granted, a bit like a long marriage. And yes, we’ve had our ups and downs over the years, with me longing to get away and London always dragging me back. Until recently, it was hard to imagine myself in any other context – again, a bit like a marriage.

But in the last few years, things changed. Every time my husband and I went out of town, we were more and more reluctant to come back - too loud, too polluted, too frantic, too… everything. We were almost ashamed to think in such clichés.

And after months of soul-searching, we took the plunge. Boy, was it scary. Don’t laugh, I know I talk as if the country is some strange, alien place where my existence - as I know it - might be threatened. I do realize that millions of people live all their lives perfectly happily out of the city, but you have to understand that I was a total addict.

The day we moved we sat amongst the boxes in our cottage near the sea and panicked. Had we done the right thing? Would we be bored? Would we become dull, lose all our friends? My big worry was that the move smacked of retirement – although both of us are still currently working. By leaving the buzz and excitement of the city would we be closing something off, narrowing our lives down to garden centres and old age? Argh!

My big worry was that the move smacked of retirement...By leaving the buzz and excitement of the city would we be closing something off, narrowing our lives down to garden centres and old age?

But there we were, nervously contemplating our new life, when something wonderful happened. I got a bike. Not such an extraordinary thing you might say, but I hadn’t ridden one for at least thirty years, possibly longer. My husband, irritatingly, jumped on his and rode off as if to the manor born. I, on the other hand, was petrified. I wobbled along the road clutching the handlebars with white knuckles, baffled by the seven gears, – last bike I owned only had three, – gasping in fright at every car that passed and quite unable to take my hand off long enough to signal right or left. Uphill made my thighs scream with pain, downhill made me scream with terror. All in all it was a slightly traumatic interlude. But, I have to confess, also exhilarating. I was doing something new, something I was nervous of but still went ahead with, something I could get better at if I persevered. Which I have, sort of. Sir Bradley hasn’t phoned to ask me on a ride yet, but there’s time. And it has brought a whole new enjoyment to my life, just as moving out of London has.

So it seems there’s life in the old dog yet. And I reckon it’s a case of Now or Never at my age. I am contemplating my next challenge as we speak. I’m thinking pole-vaulting, or maybe winning Bake Off? (I promise not to touch anyone else’s Baked Alaska!) Answers on a postcard please…

**Hilary Boyd's new book, A Most Desirable Marriage is now available to purchase from Amazon and all good bookshops.

By Hilary Boyd

Twitter: @hilaryboyd

jinglbellsfrocks Wed 15-Oct-14 13:50:10

If you do decide to buy a bike, get a different saddle! They all come with rock hard ones these days. Enough to put anybody off.

Are we sure that is Hilary Boyd in that photo?

hildajenniJ Wed 15-Oct-14 14:52:08

I used to cycle everywhere in my youth. I haven't owned a bike for years. The last one I had, had one of those awful racing saddles, you couldn't sit on it. These days I'd need one with a bit of cushioning.grin

goldengirl Wed 15-Oct-14 15:01:34

I used to cycle a lot but the roads are far too busy for me now and the local lanes attract the speed merchants. Centre Parks on the few occasions I've been have been super for bikes and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

pompa Wed 15-Oct-14 15:06:06

Tried to ride my exercise bike today, but knee would not bend far enough. Disappointed that the range of movement has not improved. Had 90 deg when I left hospital, still about the same, too much swelling I think. Trying to bend it further, but pain is the barrier.

Nothing as comfortable as a brooks leather saddle, expensive , but well worth it and takes a while to bed in to your bum.

Scooter58 Wed 15-Oct-14 21:29:22

Loved cycling as a child,decided this year I was going to get back on my bike so to speak.My friend and I have taken to cycling around Strathclyde Park( which hosted the triathlon for commonwealth games).We are loving it,have purchased Gel seats to help with "saddle soreness).

jamsidedown Wed 15-Oct-14 22:31:27

I would love to be able to ride a bike, but my parents never bought me one and I never learned. My DH bought me a bike some years ago and tried to teach me but to no avail, I just couldn't balance. I will never learn now, and I feel quite cross that my parents didn't think this would be a good thing to encourage. We have a motorhome and I would love to be able to go off with DH down quiet lanes when we go away. I did ask my dad about this a few years ago, he said they never thought about it - grr!

Kiora Wed 15-Oct-14 22:52:26

I'd too would love to ride a bike. my parents never had the money to buy for the first two children but my three younger siblings can ride. I'd love to ride through parks and country lanes. I really feel as if i'v missed out. sad

Anya Wed 15-Oct-14 22:58:29

I rode coast to coast in 2003 - dipped on wheels in the sea at Whitehaven and a few days later in the sea near the Stadium of Light. Never ridden a bike since until last week.

hummingbird Wed 15-Oct-14 23:34:02

I love my bike - a very handsome Pashley Princess. It has a Brooke's saddle, and attracts admiring glances wherever we go. For longer distances, I have a Giant - it's not as pretty but is much lighter. Mr H and I, along with a couple of friends, spent a lovely week cycling in Italy. It's a great way of seeing stuff that you'd usually just drive straight past. Good for the soul, I think ��

Faye Thu 16-Oct-14 06:52:59

Jam and Kiora I have seen in Brisbane three wheel bikes for adults. I had never seen them before but now see many adults riding them.

I only took up bike riding again about 20 months ago. I am kicking myself now, I loved cycling when I was a child and my ex husband even bought me a bike when I was 28, but we lived in a hilly area and I didn't know what I was missing. Now I love it and ride every chance I can. Certainly keeps me fit.

jamsidedown Thu 16-Oct-14 13:47:18

Yes Faye I have seen these tricycles, but they are a bit large to fit in a motorhome sad. Tempting though.

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 16-Oct-14 14:05:11

Ooh! Get you hummingbird! Pashley indeed! Has it got a cover on the back wheel to stop your skirt getting caught in the spokes? grin wink

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 16-Oct-14 14:05:50

Mine's a forty year old Raleigh (was new to me). Best bike on the road.

upsydaisy Thu 16-Oct-14 20:26:12

Aww hummingbird I would love a Pashley but where I live in the Pennines it would probably kill me trying to get up hills with only what is it 3 gears? maybe 5 at a pinch, not to mention the weight. Mine's a Cannondale road bike (fit for purpose) of battling up hills. I've been cycling regularly since about 2009. I came off in December 2012 when some silly kid (old enough to know running out into the road is a bad thing to do) ran out in front of me with no warning. I suffered a cracked rib and a hole in my elbow. Spent a very miserable couple of weeks in the lead up to Christmas that year.......but it hasn't put me off, just made me very wary of pedestrians who don't look before crossing the road, of which there are many.

GrannyGear Thu 16-Oct-14 22:07:15

Faye, there are plenty of trikes available for adults but they can take a lot of getting used to if you've been riding a bike. Steering on a trike is very different. You need to un-learn the technique of leaning as you steer.

Now a recumbent trike is a different matter altogether: you sit down to ride and steer with a couple of handles under the seat and steering is more or less intuitive.

Like some others on this thread I didn't learn to ride as child. We lived on a main road and my parents never seemed to consider it necessary. We had a good bus service and I could get around easily. I I got my first bike when I was 30 and living in the country and looking for a way to get around.

Over the years my balance got poor and arthritis made it difficult to get my leg over (over a crossbar, that is!) I tried several different kinds of recumbent trikes and got mine nearly four years ago.I love my recumbent trike and wouldn't be without it. We're currently looking at adding an electric motor to get me up the hills.

Faye Fri 17-Oct-14 00:53:46

Jam I think a three wheeler bike with two rear wheels closer together would be great. They would be far easier to ride for those who don't feel they can balance on two wheels. I am sure there would a market for them.

GrannyGear I have seen the recumbent bikes where they are lying on the bike, I don't understand how they don't fall off. I can see the others would be easier to ride.

I can't swing my leg over the bar either, I prefer a very light frame women's bike. I have found if you can't lift the front of the bike it will be too heavy to ride.

jamsidedown Fri 17-Oct-14 14:45:03

Faye I have just googled "tricycle" and found the one of my dreams! It has a sweet basket on the front and an electric motor for getting up those pesky hills. The problem with it is the price - £1,299. It would need to be a very special birthday for that to happen. The ones without motors are about £700, but not half as desirable smile - and still a fair outlay. Need to have a big think about that ...

GrannyGear Fri 17-Oct-14 15:48:39

If you consider a bike as a an alternative way of getting around to using a nasty, smelly, expensive, polluting, dangerous motor car, with the added costs of car tax and insurance, MOT petrol and servicing and the rest the price you mention isn't excessive.

I'm not saying get rid your car. Cars have their uses and are essential in some cases. But think how much you will save if you do even 25% of your journeys by bike. People often expect to get a bike for the same price their dad or granddad paid 50 years ago. Just about everything else has gone up in price, bikes are no different. The ten-quid racing bike is long gone!

jamsidedown Fri 17-Oct-14 20:23:07

Grannygear I do often leave the car behind and use shank's pony - where did that saying come from I wonder? I walk into town - about half an hour walk - and to the allotment - so I don't feel too guilty when I have to drive somewhere. smile

bluekarma Sat 18-Oct-14 13:13:40

I've just found gransnet again and found this at the exact right time. I too live in London and I'm looking to move to Worthing and get a bike. It''s true it's scary leaving London, all the hustle and bustle but I can't wait to get our house on the market and move to Sussex and get a little flat all to myself. As long as I can get back to London easily to see my friends. Haven't ridden a bike for over 50 years but I want to cycle along the prom at first until I get more confident. What sort of bike do you think would be best for the experienced cyclists? I don't want a racing bike (I think they are the ones with drooped handlebars :-) just the kind to get around town and along the prom. I would be grateful for any suggestions. Thanks

Faye Sat 18-Oct-14 18:05:40

Jam If you could get the previous year's model you might get a bit off the price. Do you really need a motor on the bike?

bluekarma I would look at bikes that are lightweight, a road bike, not a mountain bike. Also a women's bike so you don't have to swing your leg over the bar.

jamsidedown Sat 18-Oct-14 23:49:38

Faye its a lot of money to pay out for something I have never tried, even if it doesn't have a motor. But yes, I think I probably would want a motor as there are an awful lot of quite steep hills around here. In any case, as I said, it won't fit in/on the motorhome and we are not up for towing it behind, so I think it's probably a bit of a pipe dream smile

Faye Sun 19-Oct-14 06:39:19

I agree Jam, that's why I thought maybe you could find one a lot cheaper.

I was just reading a forum that you and anyone else who can't ride a bike may find interesting. Steve57's post at 3:36pm (18th May) is very interesting where he/she talks about lowering the seat and taking off the pedals and goes into a lot of detail that I think would be helpful. At 8:35pm BHOFM talks about the next stage, once you put the pedals back. Steve57 came back a few posts further down and posted about completing a 12 mile mountain bike challenge in the UK only six weeks later.

Reading Steve57's post reminded me how at the beginning of this year I taught my GD 6 to ride. When I visit I walk them to school and my GDs ride their bikes. Six year old didn't want to give up her trainer wheels, the problem was they were bending and she looked as she was about to fall off her bike. It was hard, lots of wailing (from her, not me), me running behind her to help her stay on the bike and give her a push to get going every time. We started out on grass and on a gentle slop but she had quite a few falls on the path to the pond. When she could finally ride her bike DD told me GD's friend's mother had just said her daughters, one only three or four learnt to ride in a day, she thought it may have been because it was a bike with no pedals and she was able to get her balance much easier. I wish I had known, GD6 took weeks, now she loves riding her bike and rides up hills with no problems.

I said to GD recently while she was riding how nice it was that she could ride so well and after all the wailing. She laughed and said "don't remind me, Grumma." smile

Micah68 Sat 25-Oct-14 18:00:09

I started riding a bike again this summer too. The last time I owned a bike I was a student. I too gripped the handle bars with white knuckles. I found the helmet intrusive, it robbed me of the romantic sensation of wind in my hair. I had to watch youtube to learn how to avoid 'Helmet Hair'. Within a few weeks I was hooked and rode for miles along the cycle lanes admiring the views of the hills. Until I got too ambitious and tried some woodland cycling. I am now nursing a bulging disc injury. I will recover and go back to it before the hills can only be admired from my windows.