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.
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.