Oh What Fun we HAD

I couldn’t resist using that as a title. HAD in this case is refers to Hertfordshire Action on Disability and the fun (as is often the case with me) involved cycling. For many years HAD has offered support, advice and vital services to disabled and older people in Hertfordshire. Unfortunately, due to the “financial crisis”, their funding has been drastically cut and in order to maintain services they will have to make up the shortfall. As part of this funding drive they decided to organise a charity bike ride and got in touch with me a few months back to ask if I would help out (they found me through the Hertfordshire Local Access Forum where I am a member representing the interests of cyclists). The idea was for riders to start wherever they liked but with a common destination at Woollams Playing Fields (home of the Old Albanian Rugby Football Club) on Harpenden Road, just north of St Albans. The date was set for Sunday June 23rd and the event organiser, Paul Bishop, was looking for me to help run a ride starting at Gosling Sports Park in Welwyn Garden City.

As well as helping to support a good cause another attraction for me was that participants were invited to do a few laps of the Gosling velodrome before setting off. Since getting a fixed gear bike last year I have been pushing myself to ride further and faster but I had never been on a velodrome and I wanted to see what it was like. Gosling Sports Park is home to local cycling club Welwyn Wheelers who I understood would be helping with the ride too. I brought this event up at the March meeting of the Welwyn Hatfield Cycling Forum (of which I am also a member) and suggested that that we offer our support.

To cut a long story short, on Sunday me and two other WHCF members (Roger and John) arrived at Gosling where we met Paul Bishop and the ride participants, of whom there were not as many as he had hoped. In fact there was just a single team of about a dozen employees of EMS Stairlifts, a local company which has supported HAD in the past. I headed off to the velodrome where I did three or four laps in blustery conditions. I would like to try it again when there is less wind and I have more time but I might have to join Welwyn Wheelers to get the chance. When I returned to the group Roger was pumping up somebody’s under-inflated tyres. Most people with bikes fail to inflate their tyres to the correct pressure and I often end up doing it for them. My pump has a reasonable pressure gauge and it is not unusual for a tyre to register less than 10 psi. Even mountain bike tyres should generally be inflated to at least 35 and the Schwalbe Durano Plus tyres on my fixie want between 85 and 115. Correct pressure results in less effort, better (and safer) handling, and longer tyre life.

Finally, after EMS took some team photos, we were ready to set off with Paul and Roger leading and me and John as the tail team (we both have first aid certificates and I had a first aid kit as well as a basic set of tools with me). We headed up to Sherrardspark Woods and then to Ayot Green from where we joined the Ayot Greenway that took us all the way to Wheathampstead. Skirting south of the town there was long climb and a couple of people had to get off and push. A bit further on we reached Amwell where Paul advocated stopping for a drink at the Elephant and Castle, but the collective will was to press on. We continued via Ayres End to meet the Harpenden Road and then down the parallel cycle track till we reached the entrance to Woolhams Playing Fields, and the end of the ride. Everyone made it OK and I hope they all enjoyed it – or at least found it not too horrible. I didn’t stay long because I wanted to see a Cuban style band called The Swanvesta Social Club who were due to play at the Alban Street Party, and John decided to come with me.

It was only a short ride into town where we found St Peters Street had been closed to traffic for the event. Cycling past the roadblock we managed to find a bike rack with spaces and walked to the main stage where Swanvesta were doing a soundcheck. After the set I had a wander round and spotted a woman I knew at the Radio Verulam stall, where they were doing an outside broadcast. I hadn’t seen her for a few years and didn’t know she was into local radio so I went to say hello and she ended up persuading me to do a short interview about the bike ride. There was a lot of background noise so it was a bit difficult and I don’t know how it sounded on air, but that was my first time on radio! A good day all round I think.

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