When Tour de Broads is Tour de Town
- Credit: Archant
Patient drivers, we love you; everyone else can get off the road please, says Jo Malone.
I'm as likely as the next writer - when compiling lists of suggestions of things to do at the weekend/on holiday/at the coast/around the Broads/in town/in the country/wherever a list is needed - to put a 'go for a family bike ride' somewhere.
It doesn't cost anything; it's a chance to enjoy fresh air, exercise and the area. That's my thinking – and if you're a family with two adults to chaperone the children, why not?
But when your lovely husband and top teenager (number one daughter) are away and you've signed up to the Tour de Broads family ride around Great Yarmouth on your own with two children who've never ridden in a town before, it's daunting.
But we like medals, and the Tour de Broads medals are beautiful, so there was no way we weren't going to do this.
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It started well; I got the bike rack attached and, for the first time, remembered to shut the tailgate before I put the bikes on. We arrived, parked and set off to the start.
First Thalia fell off on the alligator teeth spikes at the car park exit. (Thanks very patient driver who waited, ages, behind her.)
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Then Keola fell off in a collision with a parked car - she was riding very, very close to the line of cars and turned round to see why we were taking so long, and swerved as she did so. That was slightly awkward, as it had to be the car with parents loading stuff while yelling at their children. I think the children were quite grateful - me deserting my bike in the middle of the road and thrusting Thalia and her bike at their mum while I tried to untangle Keola from her bike without scratching their car - completely diverted the shouting.
I thanked more patient drivers we got back on the road and then thanked some more as we had a few issues with a roundabout and a flummoxed Keola. I guess I did say 'straight over'.
We eventually made it to the start and the route was back past the car park (typical).
The family ride had minimal traffic, and was via Great Yarmouth's famous sights such as Nelson's Monument and Tide and Tide museum. But riding past parked cars and beside kerbs, working out traffic lights and seeing more than one car at a time was quite unnerving for my two country children.
We discovered that they still don't ride at the same speed, and some drivers are a lot less patient than others when waiting for a six-year-old to get her pedal in exactly the right place to set off.
But we made it, and the medals were worth it – and so was the welcome from the Beach House Café team, which was providing free chips and ice-creams, and the crowd of riders there.
We met cyclists who'd finished the 25- or 50-mile routes (the 75-and 100-mile riders were rather too wind-battered to talk) and they swapped stories of considerate and not so considerate drivers, of following signs, of u-turns, drink stops, snacks, swallowing flies and saddle-soreness with the girls.
We saw cyclists of all shapes and ages and suddenly my girls grasped the joy of a big sporting event. It's not just the individual effort, it's feeling part of a crowd who shared the same worries - and the satisfaction of succeeding.
It's realising that it's not only you who felt a bit nervous, struggled with the wind, saw those gorgeous flowers, got off to walk up the hills, needed a wee at a most inconvenient time, dropped a drink and finished feeling great.
And naturally, in that euphoric time as you clutch your medal, talk turns to another event. We met two cyclists who only started riding in January when they found six kilometres too far, but they had just finished 50 miles. They didn't have special saddles, shoes or cycling tops; they did have very big smiles on their faces and they talked themselves into entering the 75-mile ride in the next Tour de Broads this summer.
'It's addictive,' they said, asking Thalia about her best bit (ice-cream and me being hooted at, apparently).
Their conversation was definitely infectious, I realise.
'How far is 25 miles? Can we do that one?' says Keola, later.