I never seriously considered falling at the final hurdle of the 30 days of biking challenge, which simply requires that you ride a bike every day in April. No biggy for someone who rides pretty much every day anyway – particularly given the glorious weather we've had.
After 29 successful days I found myself in Dover last Saturday visiting my dad, with no bike but without any real doubts that I’d find a way, somehow, to get at least a few cycling yards in.
But I’d forgotten what a soul-sapping place Dover can be. I left it until 4pm to resolve my problem – a little unwise of me, perhaps, but I had a plan. So it was with some confidence that I strolled into Halfords with my seven-year-old daughter, told the nice chap behind the counter about the 30-day challenge and requested a bike – any bike – to pedal around the carpark for a few minutes.
He declined, telling me that they weren’t allowed to let anyone take any bike out of the shop for any kind of test ride. Yes he understood the circumstances, but no he was afraid there could be no exceptions.
A bike shop that doesn’t allow test rides. Remind me never to buy a bike from Halfords…(actually, don’t waste your time – it was never going to happen anyway).
I walked out of the shop, the first flutterings of failure building in my gut. As luck would have it there was a cyclist in the carpark, chatting to a bunch of lads in a car. Okay so he looked a little intimidating, with his narrowed eyes, bare tattooed arms and ludicrously over-sprung mountain bike, but I was getting desperate so I went over to him with my most winning smile and explained my problem. “Could I borrow your bike for two minutes, just to go to the other end of the carpark and back?” I asked, “I’ll leave my daughter with you so you can be sure I won’t nick it.”
Ignoring my daughter’s frantic hand squeezes, I redoubled my smiling efforts, certain that no one could turn down such a reasonable request. But he did: “I don’t even let my other half touch my bike mate. No chance.”
I turned away, desperately surveying the street for any other cyclists. As if by magic a sensible looking chap on an electric bike swung round the corner. I flagged him down and explained my predicament. “Of course!” he beamed, dismounting immediately and offering me his bike. “I’ll leave you my wallet, camera and car keys as security if you like,” I said, hardly believing my luck. “No need,” he replied in a Germanic accent and with a slightly disconcerting smile, “I have your daughter.”
Brushing aside my misgivings I jumped onto his bike and pedalled around for a minute or two, thus completing my challenge. I’m sure my daughter will understand in time…
It turns out that my benefactor (pictured above) is called Alexander, possibly the only Austrian living and working in Dover. I took his email address and will be sending him a link to this blog. So, for the record: Alexander, you’re a true gentleman. Thank you very much for your kindness.