The Wind in my Wheels

Books 007

The Wind in my Wheels is the first of seven books by my favourite cycling writer, Josie Dew. I've read all her books more than once but I've read this so often I almost know it off by heart! Whenever we go for a 'normal' holiday without my bike this is the book that always finds its way into my luggage as a reminder (as if such a thing were necessary!) of what I'm missing. It even begins, not just on the Isle of Wight, but in my hometown where she meets Ward, her first cycling boyfriend.

'Ward and I had originally met on bicycles while I was cycling around the Isle of Wight for fun and he was there for work. The Tourist Board were promoting it as 'Bicycle Island' and he was finding out, for the Bournemouth Evening Echo, whether it really was, and if so, why.
At first I did not like Ward at all. He chased me up one of the island's vertical hillsides on a single-speed rusty boneshaker; then he chased me down the other side. Although it was a steep descent laced with hairpin bends, he attempted to carry out his chat up routine as if we were standing sedately at a drinks party.
We screeched to a halt in Ventnor town centre.'

I know that road well, although I usually opt for an easier route. After this inauspicious beginning they go on to have many cycling misadventures together before eventually going their separate ways. What I like most about Josie's books is the way that her sheer love of cycling shines through. She loves cycling and she loves camping, these are not just a means to an end for her as they are for many travel writers. She is now married with two young children but this has not stopped her cycling and the family spent last summer touring Holland, Germany and Denmark.

For several years I've been trying to get to one of her talks but they are always either too far away or happening when I'm elsewhere. This time I was in luck, she was giving a talk at Chichester cycling festival the day after we got back from France. Chichester is only a short train ride from the Isle of Wight and is an attractive town with an impressive cathedral. I have to admit that I was more interested in the fact that Peregrines have nested successfully on the cathedral for the last few years and it was great to sit in the sun on a warm summer's evening watching the recently fledged young birds flying around the spire.

We arrived early at the venue to find Josie and her husband Gary had arrived by tandem and were busy trying to persuade the projector supplied by the council to actually work. It looked for a while as if there would be no pictures but the organiser finally persuaded it to work just seconds before the scheduled start time. At first glance I thought Josie looked rather more buxom than I was expecting. At second glance I realised that this was because the arrival of junior cyclist number 3 is fairly imminent!

As expected, the talk was most entertaining and enjoyable, even for a non cyclist like Dennis. Josie is clearly a woman who knows her own mind. She joked that she hadn't grown any taller since the age of twelve – probably as a result of cycling 20-30 miles to school and back from then on. Her other great love is cooking and when she was fifteen she saved up her pocket money to buy a bike trailer to start 'Posh Nosh' her bike based catering business. A whole new meaning to 'meals on wheels'! By her late teens she was heading abroad on cycling adventures with Ward and has since cycled more than half a million miles on every continent except Antarctica. She talked animatedly for an hour describing her many adventures before the audience relaxed with tea and biscuits while she just had the odd sip from her water bottle while signing books and chatting to people. They say you should never meet your heroes but I thoroughly enjoyed meeting mine and I was particularly impressed that she actually remembered me from a couple of emails that we've exchanged.

Brittany 2013 & Josie Dew 084

The second part of her talk described her experiences cycling with children. Unfortunately by the time she was ready to resume it was already 9.15 and we needed to catch the 9.35 train to make the last ferry home so we had to leave at the end of the interval. I'll just have to go back and hear part two another time.

6 comments on “The Wind in my Wheels”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    I think it's good to meet one's heroes. That is a very nice photo.

    She loves cycling and she loves camping... "an overpowering urge to travel" since primary school, and in 2012 still "Felt like I could get on my bike and ride for ever."

    Much as I enjoy cycling, I don't really fancy being away for months on end and camping wild, behind hedges etc, although I see the attraction of cycling across a wilderness. She is certainly a remarkable individual. And... there's still plenty of time for you Hilary! (esp if you can persuade Dennis to go scootering again – Denmark and Holland are good for that, as mopeds share cycle paths with bicycles)

  2. jim wrote:

    Josie had all these adventures in her youth when she had nobody to think about but herself. I've never read of any Round the World adventurers that have a sizeable family/loved ones back home. I'm always amazed at how those few long distance cyclists with families manage being apart for so long.
    Even now when my kids have flown the nest I don't do very well on my tours. Two weeks is more than enough for me away from them and camping is ok in very small doses.
    It comes to us all. Look how Josie has settled down with her lovely little family. I think it will be a long time, or perhaps never, before she can get anywhere near to repeating her wanderings.

  3. Patrick wrote:

    Well, my brother and his partner (now wife) cycle-toured all over Europe when they were younger with no permanent jobs, roughing it mostly. Occasionally it comes out they were in this place or that – Prague, Budapest etc. They recently had twins and he is now about sixty, so that's the end of that!

    With Josie Dew it seems to be in her blood so I wouldn't be surprised if she keeps on going. As Hilary said, in 2012 she spent 6 weeks cycling 800 miles with husband and children across northern Europe. I suppose if someone wants to do something badly enough they will find a way do it. It may be her livelihood as well (the writing).

  4. Hilary wrote:

    Patrick wrote

    With Josie Dew it seems to be in her blood so I wouldn't be surprised if she keeps on going.

    I don't think there is any possibility that she will stop, she will just share it with her husband and children. For a while last year she was contemplating doing LeJog with just her children.

    I'm not sure how much I would really enjoy extended bike tours or whether it is just a day dream. I think you certainly need either to be single or have a partner who is equally enthusiastic about the idea.

    I like the idea of cycling from the Isle of Wight up to the Shetland Isles but there is no way I could talk Dennis into that one – he likes sunshine!

  5. Kern wrote:

    As Patrick said, it is a pleasure to meet a public person and discover the private individual lives up to expectations.

    Long distance touring, that is ve-ry long distance touring for months on end, is not an option we have had the opportunity to try. I know that in the third week of a tour we both feel we could use with just a few days at home for a reset and then get back at it again. I expect the novelty of endless touring would wear after months on the road.

    As for camping ... well, we just considered whether we should pack a tent for our ride next week. In the end we decided against it. However, if/when we go back to the Rockies we will definitely bring a tent – there's no place like it!

  6. Mary wrote:

    I love Josie's books and have been inspired by her for some time. Wind in my Wheels was my first cycling book I ever read. I love it, simply because she cycles alone and doesnt feel the need to 'belong' to any clique and to be totally independent.

    Im sure her infectious positive outlook will ensure her children take to cycling for cycling sake as well. I wonder how many people go out there touring because of her. She is an inspiration for women in particular, proof that 'we can do it' and the entire household wont fold if we do!

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