Friday, 27 February 2015

Piglet on Wheels

Available from Bikes 2U Direct.
 We bought Piglet's first bike online;
subsequent ones from a good local 
family shop (Damian Harris Cycles).
The Big Pedal starts next week! 

Piglet never had a tricycle; she started out on the Disney Princess bike with trainer wheels. It also of course had bangles, beads and other accessories stuck on anywhere there was space. She would cycle it fiercely round and round the park with great pleasure, dressed up as Snow White, while I dozed on a bench wrapped in a winter coat.

When I first tried to take the trainer wheels off, I started with just one. I read somewhere that if you take one wheel off, your piglet gets some sense of balance then you take the other off and they are away.

Not so! I took both trainer wheels off and ran alongside Piglet shoving her on the Disney Princess embellished creation. She rolled along the path a little way with her feet twinkling round on the pedals. Almost immediately she would be distracted: "Oh look! Birds! Sky!" Whump! grass and mud and howls of outrage.

The trainer wheels went back on and we trundled very slowly to and from school in this way occasionally. One day a small boy of our acquaintance saw us and, with typical total lack of tact and social savoir-faire, gasped out: "Do you still have trainer wheels?!!" Piglet turned to me as soon as we got home and said: "Take them off." We went to the park and instead of trying to push her along the long straight paths, she had a go at riding the bike in a square tarmac-ed area. Because she could wobble over it in all different directions, she got on much better and in only one day she was riding pretty well.

Typical Pigletocycle - pic from Fishface
We began to progress onto bikes with a couple of gears - that was an exciting step up! although Piglet did cast a wistful look at the Princess decorations she was having to leave behind.

Now came the training of Piglet in road sense. Initially she cycled on the pavement and I went alongside. This was quite annoying as we had to stop every time we got to a road crossing and I had to shout at Piglet to give way to pushchairs and other parents. However in this way we got used to the route to school. Encouraged by bike-it breakfast and the promise of glittering prizes certificates, we joined in Cycle-to-School days, weeks and months.

I am a highly proficient cyclist, having trained myself on the London freeways. Once you have learnt to dodge in and out three lanes of blocked traffic including double decker buses, a lorry which got lost on its way to Wembley and a red sports car whose driver nearly explodes as you go zooming past it while it sits at 0 mph in the central lane, there are few problems in a city where you can go down a dedicated cycle route into town at risk only of a seagull pooing on you while you admire the trees draping their leaves delicately around the weir on the river. I do not like to boast, but I acksherly used to cycle with no hands sometimes, on my Dawes Horizon touring bike (sigh).Not so easy on a Landrover Ascot with two large panniers loaded with fruit, vegetables, sausages and a delicate box of meringues absolutely necessary for making some prized Piglet pudding.

I could not believe the things I had to train Piglet into in order to get her tootling along the road instead of the pavement! My hair still rises when I remember the time I shouted 'turn left!' and, accustomed to walking across the road at that point and continuing on the pavement on the other side, she veered right across the junction in front of a car about to turn into the main road. Turning a tight corner instead of wobbling about in front of a bus took three or four training sessions. I took to explaining the road markings while we walked to school, it was easier than howling: "That white line means the other side is for oncoming vehicles!"

I kept meaning to sign her up for a road-sense cycle session (they will do them in her school but not till next academic year), but we got on with it on quiet roads and she is pretty good these days. I cycle behind her and slightly wide of her so that cars coming up behind us are obliged to skirt well clear of her (as they drive to school too fast, having set off late because they thought the drive would not take very long and have suddenly remembered that parking will). 

On the whole, other cars are good as they realise she is a small learner human. They drive in a way which allows for Piglet to suddenly be distracted by the sight of a classmate, wave at them and veer sideways in consequence. Occasionally one of them will do something bonkers, like attempt to wave her into the road in front of their car contrary to the right-of-way. (I know this seems kind, but Piglet cannot learn proper road sense if others don't stick to the rules.) My main difficulty these days is that Piglet has become such a good cyclist she speeds way ahead of me and I am left puffing and panting behind with the violin strapped to my back - and of course also the two large panniers stuffed with fruit, vegetables, sausages and a delicate box of cream slices.

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