HAMPSHIRE:Cycling

Heidi on her bike lr

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By Tim Saunders

Boris Johnson wants to get the country cycling in order to boost the nation’s health. I’ve always loved cycling but since my university days have found the roads have got busier and driving standards have declined. To think I used to ride to Southampton Institute (now Solent University) up to four times a day from my base in Bitterne. Not something I would happily do these days. And certainly not something I want my young family to do from a safety point of view. So we’ve investigated family friendly alternatives near to where we live in Hampshire and have been pleased with what we have discovered.

But because we don’t want to ride on the roads it means we have to drive the bikes to the start of the route. I wasn’t even sure whether my ageing Ford Fiesta would be able to transport five bikes. But it can. So, on my trusty roof rack I have bike bars that allow me to carry two full size adult bikes on the roof. I then have a carrier that I fit on the boot that will carry up to three full size adult bikes.

Initially we think that we need our small step ladder to provide the height for getting the bikes on the roof. But over time I discover that I don’t need this because I have the strength to lift the bike and then if necessary wheel it up the back of the car on to the secure bike bar fitting. A fairly easy exercise. Fitting the rear bike carrier is initially awkward due to it arriving with few instructions but each time it is used we improve it and it transports the bikes safely. But it is necessary to drive sensibly and to always have an eye on the rear view mirror to see how the bikes are fairing. The roads can be quite bumpy round here and it is possible for one of the straps to ping off, which leaves your heart in your mouth!

We venture to Wickham, Hampshire where there is a popular car park but we find a space and unload. I fit my Akaso Brave 7 LE waterproof camera to my bike’s handlebars, which act as a steady tripod for me to take photo and video by pressing the photo or video buttons on the remote wrist strap. Here Hampshire County Council has a cycle and walking trail, which goes through the Forest of Bere and into the South Downs. Very picturesque but little Henry (4) is always worrying about going along this route after his last encounter with a large dog that jumped up at him when we were walking. Despite my shouting at the dog and the owners, they couldn’t care less and continued on their way, the dog off its lead. We noticed that a lot of dog walkers do this along the way, which is off putting for young families. I put this to Hampshire County Council and was told this: “In areas we have marked as safe to let dogs off the lead, such as the Meon Valley Trail through Wickham, dog-owners are still responsible for ensuring their dog does not intimidate other path users. We also hope that the respect and care shown by most dog-walkers will be reciprocated with tolerance and understanding from other path users.” Not good enough when a little boy has been scared out of his wits. On other occasions my wife has suffered a large dog jumping up at her along this same route. So we go along it with a little trepidation but soon realise that dog owners and their dogs have a respect for bicycles that they do not seem to display for those of us on two feet. Interesting sociological exercise. Henry is still timid and veers into a hedge when he sees the first dog off its lead but soon grows in confidence as most dog owners wait for us to pass and we all have a thoroughly enjoyable bike ride.

A couple of miles into our ride we find some tree trunks lying on the ground by the side of the path, which Henry thinks will make a perfect spot for a picnic and he is right. We tuck into our sandwiches. Henry is then eager to start riding again and after a couple more miles begins to tire, not surprisingly when he is only four. We probably cover about five miles or so in total and then return home for a well earned ice cream.  

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