While 50% of TDL were enraging the citizens of Aberfeldy and Pitlochry by cycling on their roads, I was getting some more bike miles in my legs on my local trails. Given my previous experiences (see Where is the Love? Pt 3) I took the drastic step of equipping my 5” “lightweight XC full-suss” steed (see also: ability compensator) with something shiny and retro. A bell. No, really. It was the one that came with the bike, as indeed the law dictates, and the one that was quickly dispatched to the spares bin along with the wheel reflectors and the entry-level SPD pedals. But hell, the bell on Little Miss Stumpy Rider’s Ridgeback is more discreet. It’s small, black and very stealthy. Mine is big, silver and sports the radar signature of a wing of B17 bombers. On black oversize bars. I know what you’re (not) thinking – mmmm, nice!
The thing is, tho’, it seems that you don’t even need to be approaching the average pedestrian from behind to be ignored. Fast forward to Almondell Country Park where the main drive takes you down tarmac-ed splendour towards the River Almond and NCN Route 75. A party of about, I dunno, 8 or 9 are coming up towards me and I slow to about walking pace, expectantly, er, expecting the group to perhaps make a gap or maybe just MOVE THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY. But no. So I’m on the grass, which in itself isn’t the problem. What is a problem tho’ is when I’m almost abeam the line of bodies, Uncle Fred on the outside decides to turn round to see where the dog’s gone and steps – you guessed – right into my path. Cue some ‘body English’ (as they say in MBR) which was as deft as the actual English in my head was appalling. I’m not sure if he even noticed me as no acknowledgement of our near-miss was made. I rode on, shaking my head.
On the way back, the story was largely similar. That said, a young couple did let me by with a cheery wave when they heard the bell and a comprehensively bollocksed-looking runner kept his line as I passed him so it wasn’t all bad. However, the ‘get a bloody bell’ lobby have no mandate as 80% of them wouldn’t hear it or simply choose to ignore it in the first place. What’s the point?
And so, returning home via North Wood and round the back of BMFW’s house (sort of) I pulled a bunny hop onto Stevie-Next-Door’s grass, missing his shiny new-ish Corsa by mere centimetres to find Little Miss Stumpy Rider playing happily on her own bike. She regaled me with tales of how she’s “getting good” without her stabilisers. And then I chucked the bell back in the spares bin.