Today we bought J a new bike. We didn’t mean to, we had actually just gone into Bath to return his school shoes (for the second time and a whole different story). We are not in the habit of randomly buying our children high valued gifts, or even gifts with a high perceived value, unless there is a damn good reason to do so. Today, however, we did.
I’m not entirely sure how we got from school shoes to bicycles but there we were walking from the car park to the shoe shop and as we passed the Bath Bike Workshop we magically found ourselves walking through the doors to see what it was all about. Half an hour later we were wheeling a bright orange Apollo kids bike out through the doors.
I have to admit that J has been in ‘desperate need’ (as much as any child is in desperate need) for a new bike. The one he had for his 4th birthday, complete with ‘Police’ livery (I suspect this is no longer cool for a 6 year old), has had some good use and his legs appear to have grown somewhat over the summer holidays (they aren’t quite hitting his ears but they aren’t far off). So, we have been doing our research and were fully expecting Father Christmas to be loading up a Dawes Redtail onto his sleigh.
The Dawes seemed to tick all the boxes: lightweight, half a dozen gears, a front suspension, cool colours and a reassuringly expensive price ticket – not quite as high as the Islas or the Frogs but, still, a fairly well endowed purse would be required. As we are in the process of buying a house the amount of spare cash is minimal and so Steve and I have been talking about how to manage the children’s expectations come Christmas. Consequently, we have been reticent about actually putting down a deposit for a new bike – £200 is not an amount that can be handed over lightly after all. We had researched the resale value on eBay for the Isla and Frog bikes, which it appears is just as high (good news if you do invest in one as they will hold their value) but why pay two hundred plus pounds for a second hand bike when a new one costs only a little more? It seems fate then that we wandered into the Bath Bike Workshop.
Cycling is one of those activities that has increased in popularity in recent years. With Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott leading the way for UK cyclists it is no wonder that the Brits are discovering a love of the two wheeled machine. I remember taking off on my bike around ‘the block’ when I was a child, diverting to my best friends’s house on a weekend. Loving the feel of the wind in my face, hair flying out behind me as I coasted down the hill, feeling as though I could fly, before swinging ninety degrees to the left round the corner, praying there wasn’t a tractor coming in the opposite direction. I’ll never forget the bike I was given on my 14th birthday. A mountain bike, purple, blue and pink, with gears. So much was tied up in this bicycle. Not just the freedom of cycling three miles on my own, but the fact that I was well, and fit, enough to cycle (this was my birthday gift the summer I had heart surgery) and so this bike is still with me. Twenty five years on and I still haven’t managed to part with it.
T and J are both proficient cyclists. T lacks a little confidence (my brakes were almost worn through following a recent cycle round the block with her) but can actually cycle well, and most importantly, safely. J gets onto his bike and becomes a bit of an Evel Knievel. In my bones I know that he will, sooner or later, have a nasty tumble off his bike, but I love that he feels free when in control of this incredible machine; that the pain of a midge flying into his eye at twenty(ish) miles an hour doesn’t stop him from trying to go faster.
The Bath Bike Workshop is a social enterprise that is run by Julian House, a charity in Bath that provides homeless and other vulnerable people with the opportunity to rebuild their lives. It is a fantastic initiative and has branches in Trowbridge and Bristol too. Bikes are donated to the organisation and then service users refurbish or re-build them for re-sale to the public with the proceeds being re-invested into the scheme. Along the way individuals gain life changing skills, experience and opportunities meaning that they are no longer on a ‘road to nowhere’ (sorry, I can never resist a quote from some song lyrics!). It is a bit hit and miss as to whether you find what you are looking for when you call into the Workshop but on this particular Saturday, J did find his two wheeled match. Bright orange, with front and back suspension, the Apollo Stomp clearly had J’s name all over it, and at just £35 it would have been foolish to leave it behind. It appears that Santa’s sleigh may have a little more room in it this year!
Disclaimer – I have not received payment or products in exchange for this article (although if a brand wants to forward either, they would be gratefully received!). Any prices stated are correct at the time of publishing (26th September 2015).