The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Suddenly The Bike was our only means of transport


Photo: Lilies

Photo: Lilies

“Have you got a fiver?”
“No. Well yes. What do you need it for?”
“The man is coming to collect the car for the M.O.T.”
“But I need the car to collect Inca from The Animal Health Trust and I’ve got to pick up my prescription from Newmarket – I can’t go all weekend without pills.”
“Don’t worry. We’ll figure out something.”

I thought and thought and the only option I figured out was bike shaped. I would cycle into Newmarket on my bike. It’s only a six mile round trip. The problem is that apart from a few flicks up the road to John’s shop (a ten minute walk away) I hadn’t really bothered with the bike. Gardening does make one fit but this requires muscular thighs and then there was the question of the razor sharp boy racer saddle.

I had to cut the brambles that had grown between the wheels and pump up both tyres. This alone was exhausting. Finally wobbled out of the drive and started my journey. The road through the village and down to Newmarket is a gentle slope. Easy on the thigh muscles but the slim boy racer saddle was soon making its mark – it felt that I had been molested by King Kong’s big brother. So it was a huge relief when I reached the town and locked the bike to a sturdy iron structure. With rather shaky legs I tottered off to the collect the prescription.

I’d bought my bag, a large over the shoulder and across the body affair. A real cyclist’s bag that had been given to me by my old friend Max, years ago, when we were working together in London. Once again, my hoarder instinct had paid off. This bag is handy as it holds the cycling helmet when off piste and shopping on foot until it’s time to ride home. But there’s the rub. Even though the hills back home are small, they are still hills. Would I have to push the bike all the way back home?

I stopped at the cycle shop and bought lights and mud guards. Just in case there were problems with Danny’s car. This week I’m looking after The Chicken Lady’s smallholding for a few days and the bike, despite the uncomfortable saddle, is a must. I surprised myself and cycled most of the way back home – enjoying the opportunity to examine the front gardens as I sailed slowly by.

Yes, on my return I discovered that there were problems with D’s car – we have now been carless for three days. The bike was pressed into action twice yesterday to get essential supplies from John’s shop. But by the end I began to loathe that razor saddle.

TCL and S drove me to the AHT to pick up Inca at the end of the day on Friday. Thank you so much! And for once Inca didn’t weep all the way home, she was too interested in the horsey paraphernalia on the back seat.

This morning I logged onto Amazon and ordered a women’s bicycle saddle that was one of the cheapest with good reviews. I also decided that I will use the bike as often as I can for short local trips so that next time there’s an emergency I’m “bike fit” to tackle it. If there is a car permanently at hand it’s so easy to take the lazy option. Last night we sat down and worked out how much money we have spent on The Bike so far – original deal £10. Inner tubes, tyres, repair kit, oil, helmet, lights, mudguards, saddle £140.00. Yes I could get an old banger for or even a new bike for this money. But I’m delighted with my bike (which was a good quality bike in its youth). It needs no petrol and I can maintain it myself – in time it will pay for itself over and over again.

And it’s actually fun to ride!

  Leave a reply


  1. Do you know about freecycle? – you could probably find other bike maintenance items over it – – there has been some dissent with freecycle in the UK so if this Newmarket one isn’t working anymore – you might find a similar group with a new name.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Sarah

      Thanks for the nudge! This link is still working – I will keep my eyes peeled.

  2. Hi Fiona..
    Sorry I have not posted a comment for a while but all I can say is well done you.
    Since the death of my car back in March I have cycled to work and back (a round trip of around 22 miles a day) lovely in the summer and handy for foraging on the way home but now just getting a tad chilly !!!
    Good luck and enjoy every minute of it :o)

  3. I second the reflector comment. Cycling is HUGE here in the Portland metro area, and I’ve seen cyclists with ‘blinkies’ and one even had a flashing vest- there’s no mistaking that in the dark!

    People on bikes get killed here all the time, so do be careful and watch out!

  4. Kooky Girl

    I love cycling, in fact the whole family does. I have a racer and a mountain bike, BB has 2 racers and a mountain bike. The racers are so ‘precious’ they live in the spare room. I’ll be cycling this weekend, well I’ll be walking the bike with cupcake to her tutor and then I’ll be cycling on to a friend’s house.. yes, BB will be out picking up Cupcake’s christmas present – yes, you guessed it a racing bike. Funny. I find gel saddles the best – that, and lovely cushioned cycling shorts. Another must have is cycling gloves – usually fingerless and leather. It’s amazing how sore and cold your hands can get when cycling. Be safe, it’s a amazing how close drivers will be willing to come next to you, and always err on the side of caution. Sorry to witter on, but I once tentatively peered around the corner of a parked van only to come face-to-face with a BMW roaring towards me. Fortunately I was stationary so was able to throw myself back behind the van. It was a close call….

  5. Fiona-before winter darkness sets in make sure you get yourself a reflective jacket and a flashing light on the back of the bike is good too- much more noticeable than just a little steady light. If you replace your tyres get the ones with a reflective strip round them ( they are the only legal tyres in Holland) greatly increases your visibility as does about 12″ of your back mudguard painted white and bits of reflector on your pedals…

  6. suebeedoo

    I have to admit to laughing out loud at the King Kong’s older brother bit. It is up hill in ever direction from my house, there is a difference in altitude of about 600m the top of the village to the bottom. Plus I have heard of so many tales of cyclists being knocked off round here, so I have chickened out of getting a bike.

    Mind you, I originally come from Suffolk and my Yorkshire husband and I went down a few years ago and stayed at a farm near Sudbury. We borrowed a couple of bikes and J ended up diving handlebar first into a ditch, and has vowed never to get on one again!

  7. A comfy saddle is a must! I am planning to swap from walking to cycling for my daily exercise as I don’t like walking in the dark now the nights are drawing in. My big problem is that the jarring of my basic bike kills my arthritic wrists and I am wondering if front suspension would relieve some of that. I’m also thinking of changing the tyres to something less grippy than the mountain bike type tyres it came with as apparently they take a lot more effort to cycle with and Cumbria is not flat. I have bought a hi vis cycling jacket from Aldi and a better fitting helmet from Tesco so I’m going to give it a go. Living in the centre of town I need neither car nor bike to run erands but I do like to get some fresh air every day.

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