Chris’s Life of Bike Adventures

It started with the golf course across the road.  That’s the Brent Valley Golf Course in Hanwell, West London and it was only 20 yards from our front door.  We moved there in 1954 when I was just 8yrs, but by the time I was 11, my older brother and me were out on the golf course, fishing balls out of the River Brent and getting 6 pence (2 1/2p) a ball from the grateful golfers.  We had an extendable tank aerial, up to 12 feet, with an old bedspring stuck in the end, but it was much more fun to wade in barefoot and feel the soft brown clay squidgy up between our toes.

When the course was shut we hopped over the fence and went kicking the rough to find lost balls, which were sold to the club professional at the club house.  For several years I saved every penny; I wanted a bike!  Dad said we could have a bike when we could afford one ourselves.  That was his way of saying he couldn’t afford two bikes.

It took a lot of saving and at 14 I got a Saturday morning job at a greengrocers.   I had roller skates from the age of 8 and still skate at the YMCA in Halifax, so the 1/2 mile to the shop only took 5 minutes going and only 4 minutes coming back, as it was partly downhill.  I dreamed of how quickly I could do it on a bike.

And then it happened.  I was at the shop and had to pop to the newsagents, just two doors away, to get matches to light the beetroot boiler and there, on the glass fronted door, was a small card with ‘For sale, Carlton Continental – good condition – 1yr old – £20’. I knew I had the money in my Post Office account, so I took the card off the door and as soon as I was finished at 12, I skated the short distance to the advertised address.

This was the bees knees of road racing bikes and all for £20, as the owner needed a quick sale before moving abroad.

I skated home, grabbed the PO book, ran as fast as I could to get the cash and I never spent £20 so happily.  Well, you should have seen the look on my Dad’s face when I got back.  That bike opened the door to freedom and a small group of us, usually 6, would go off every Sunday, whatever the weather, to some far flung corner of Middlesex, or Surrey.  We aimed for around 20 miles out, but did go up to 40 miles in the summer.  One clear, but cold winter’s day, we set off for Winsor Great Park, just 18 miles away.  When we got there, the lakes were frozen, so two of us mad souls went for a slide on the ice.  Incredibly stupid, but oh how much fun.

Then in 1971 I moved to Halifax.  Oh, what a shock!  Hills!  Masses of them and the 5 speed bike struggled, (well I struggled) on the steepest.  I could just about get from Bradshaw, where we lived, up to the old Raggalds Pub.  Anyway, family came along and the bike was mothballed for several years, but you can’t keep a bike and not ride it, so out it came. I was off again, but just a year later, it was stolen from the garage, along with my son’s bike.  With the insurance pay out, I bought two identical, except for colour, Townsend Triathlon bikes, 10 speed.  Hills, I laughed at them.

After many years of sterling work, it was time for a change. Much research later and I was at Cycle World in Halifax and bought a Genesis Aether 34.  The Genesis, with its 14 gears, is much more suited to my senior years; the shop put a lower low and a higher high gears, so I can still get up Windy Bank if I’m warmed up.  However, the extra high gear makes the bike frighteningly fast on downhill runs.  Going down Wheatley Lane and Shroggs Road the speedo shows over 30mph, without too much effort, but cars still scream past.  I look at the Genesis bike and I can see the train of investment from all those years ago when I was saving so hard.

And there’s more.  I am now the proud owner of two replacement hips, the first in 2010, but before that operation I was struggling to mount and dismount the road bike.  I needed a step through frame.  I didn’t want a lady’s bike, so I looked at folding bikes and after much looking on Ebay, I found the dream machine.  I had to wait a month whilst it was shipped from China though, but boy, was it worth waiting for.   The 6 speed Shimano gears are just about capable of getting me from home, on to Morrisons and up to the fire station at Illingworth.

But that’s not all that it’s used for.  Yes it’s handy to nip to the shops, but one of the main uses is as a warm up machine for when I go refereeing Rink Hockey.  I still work at Premier League level and travel all over England, from Middlesbrough to Kings Lynn, or even down to Herne Bay in Kent and I know all the best places to cycle when I arrive.  Aiming to arriving 2 hours early not only gives me a good buffer for traffic hold ups, but also allows for a bike ride.  It doesn’t matter if it’s an evening game in winter, as I have an awesome front LED light and a great rear light too and if it’s wet I just don rain gear and off I go.  I’ve been on muddy riverside tracks, main roads and country lanes and even braved a bit of snow on that bike.

Before this pandemic I would regularly cycle into Halifax from Ovenden and although I have tried to get up Ramsden Street, I can’t get more than about a third of the way up, so I don’t try now.  I fold the bike up in town and get the 521 home, for free.  I’ve even taken it to London for WaterAid charity meetings.  Cycle to the station and take the folded bike on the train to London.  Unfold it at King’s Cross and cycle to my location.   London is quite a bike friendly city.

For me, the folding bike is purely transport and the road bike for keep fit and a bit of fun.  One of these days, I will refurbish my Dad’s bike, a Dawes road bike © 1929 with its peculiar triangular Swiss OS gear.  Anyone got some spare time they could give me?

Chris Freeman

Inspired to get on a bike?

Bike riding is a great cheap, healthy and fun way to get around, for more info of what help is available visit Active Calderdale’s –  Bike Riding in Calderdale.

Activity, Health & Well Being – Reframing exercising – Zain’s story

Zain has become creative in overcoming the difficulty of being in the gym to exercise.

“During lockdown, my regular physical activity habits of going to the gym became non-existent once parliament declared closure of all leisure and fitness sites. For someone who loves going to the gym to relieve stress and escape from all the worries of everyday life, managing these everyday worries become more of a challenge. However, I took this opportunity to keep on track with my physical activity by focusing on using body weight exercises to build and maintain strength and muscle whilst at home.

 Over the past month, I have once again realised the benefits of body weight exercises, the convenience of a home workout taking very little time out of my day, and being within very close distance to the shower! It’s great! Requires little time and very convenient. I have also been out for more walks whilst maintaining social distancing, this has really made me appreciate the surrounding environments and the beautiful landscapes we luckily have here in Calderdale.

 My work has also changed in recent months. From working for the Better Living Team and having an active role on the local community in promoting physical activity, health and wellbeing to now helping at the Volunteer Hub for Central Halifax. This has provided me the chance to really engage with those who are at risk of developing medical conditions and to reach out to those individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19. Having the chance to offer my skills and knowledge in becoming physically active and remaining healthy whilst at home has been a very rewarding part of this job, as well as signposting those to other services. I have found having this opportunity in having genuine conversations with residents affected by COVID-19 has been very rewarding and has contributed to improving my own mental wellbeing from actively making a difference in people’s lives in such unprecedented times.

 Having the opportunity to explore different ways of being physically active in the current situation with COVID and giving more attention to my mental wellbeing has definitely been a positive experience of this lockdown, despite all the current social limitations set by Government.”

Active Calderdale: Be Active Safely

We are all spending more time at home, distancing ourselves from large gatherings, or generally changing our routines. It can be easy to lose motivation to be active. At times like these, it is more important than ever to keep moving, to keep ourselves physically well, as well as to improve stress levels and happiness.

Although we can now exercise outdoors more often, which is a great relief for lots of us, it is vital that we all do this safely and follow the national guidance on staying safe outside your home. To limit the further spread of COVID-19 it is still important that we continue to:

  • Stay at home as much as possible. If you have to travel, please avoid the rush hour, only use public transport for essential journeys, and walk or cycle whenever possible.
  • Stay local, and avoid busy places.
  • Limit contact with other people
  • Keep physically distanced from those who are most vulnerable
  • Always keep a distance of at least 2 metres (6ft) from people outside of your household.

Parks and Facilities
Most parks including Beechwood and Shroggs parks are open for people to stay active. Ogden Water and the surrounding paths remain closed until further notice.

At Shroggs and Beechwood parks, there are ponds, a maze and lots of woodland paths to explore. Shroggs has a great hard surfaced track for riding your bike, scooting or skating on too.  Remember anyone using them must follow the social distancing guidelines at all times.

Play areas are currently still closed and play equipment remains taped off to avoid the risk of infection. There are however, lots of  ideas for things to do in the garden or outside.

The Council’s running tracks, outdoor gym equipment and sports courts also remain closed whilst it reviews the latest guidance and decides whether it is safe to reopen some services.  Stay Active During COVID 19 has lots of resources and inspiration to keep you moving.

If you have trouble getting out or shielding, there’s help to keep you moving indoors safely too.

Find out more
For the latest information and updates on COVID-19 in Calderdale, visit the Calderdale Council COVID-19 dedicated page.

If you are shielding, or showing symptoms of COVID-19, then you should remain indoors, and seek advice from the government website.

For more in depth information on the changes to the rules around physical activity, please see the Sport England Q&A page.


10 minute workouts from the NHS and Active Calderdale!

If you need some ideas and inspiration there are some 10 minute workouts from NHS and loads of ideas on the Active Calderdale Staying Active page for everyone, some 10 minutes and lots longer.

Marie the Active Workforce Lead, has done a couple of 10 minute videos:  Staircase workout     No equipment arms and legs easy workout.

Just 10 minutes a day can help brighten your mood, help with your circulation and overall health. It doesn’t take long, it won’t interrupt your day.

So there really is no excuse!!

Have fun, stay active, stay healthy!

Stay active during lockdown

As lots of us are now spending more time at home, it is more important than ever to keep active, to keep ourselves physically well and improve our mental wellbeing. Visit the Active Calderdale website for advice on keeping active at home, and check out the Active Twitter account for inspiration, home workout ideas and lots more.

Walking and cycling are great ways to explore your local area, keep fit and improve your mental wellbeing. Remember to stay at least two metres apart from other people, use gloves when opening gates or crossing stiles and wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds when you are back home. If you’re lucky enough to live in Calderdale, the VisitCalderdale website has some great ideas and tips for walkers and cyclists.

The UK’s favourite street dance team, Dance Along with Diversity, is offering free access to its online tutorials until May.

If you’re getting active this weekend, we’d love for you to share it with us on Twitter using #ActiveCdale! We’ll be promoting all of the ways we’re keeping active in Calderdale – you never know, you might inspire someone else. If you’ve got an ActiveCdale T-shirt don’t forget to wear that too.

Mixy Marchers Walking Group and beginners Netball

Mixy Marchers is a walking group held by a group of ladies which was set up in Mixenden by Mandy O’Shea. If you enjoy walking, the group is always welcome to new members. The group meets for walks every Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm outside Holy Nativity Church, Mixenden, HX2 8RX.

The walks tend to last up to 1 hour and 30 minutes with suitable clothing and footwear advised.

If walking isn’t really for you then perhaps you might like the idea of beginners netball. Held Thursday evenings from 6pm to 7.30pm at Ash Green Primary School, Lower Site. Just £2 per session to cover the cost of a trainer (Any money left over will be reinvested into the Mixy Marchers fund for further resources and the development of other physical activities in the area).

For further information, find the Mixy Marchers on Facebook here…

Grow Calderdale News – Spring Edition Out Now!

Calderdale Council have issued the Spring edition of Grow Calderdale News featuring;

  • Top tips on what to do in your garden this month
  • Gardening Club events
  • Planting herbs
  • Wildlife and bee friendly gardens
  • Seasonal recipes
  • Get involved in Active Calderdale

The full newsletter can be viewed online.