Meet our members: Kathy and Eddie Guard

Cycling in the Netherlands can’t be compared to Britain, says Kathy Guard
Cycling UK members for 50 years, Kathy and Eddie Guard found love on a bicycle made for two. Kathy spoke to Cycling UK's digital officer Rebecca Armstrong about their cycling history

I had my first two-wheeler bike when I was about 11; it was secondhand even in the mid-1950s. I cycled locally, to visit relatives and to school. In 1964 I met Eddie at a musicians’ party – he was an organist/pianist, living in a Nottinghamshire village near Southwell Minster.

He was an organist at a village about three miles from his home; I would often stay for the weekend and borrow a neighbour’s bike to cycle to his church. Eventually his father found a secondhand bike to keep in the village, and after Sunday service we would spend the afternoon cycling around local villages and countryside.

After we got married in 1969, we moved to Birmingham. Eddie got an organist post 10 miles from our first flat. He was never really interested in learning to drive. Two Sunday services meant 40 miles cycled most Sundays – unless the vicar invited us to lunch!

In time, we moved house and church. Most Saturdays were spent cycling out into the lovely Warwickshire countryside, with Eddie cycling to his school position daily.

A bicycle made for two

We really fancied a tandem, which in the early 1970s were quite rare. In 1973, Eddie’s dad found us an old Sun tandem, which needed much care and attention. By chance, Eddie saw a tandem parked outside our local cycle shop and had a chat with its owner.

This was Bob Tinley, who at that time lived close by. A close friendship developed with Bob and Audrey – who had a tandem and baby trailer, plus membership of the Tandem Club. We followed their example in 1976, getting a baby trailer for our first son Nick, going on Tandem Club weekends and using the tandem as our main transport.

At the time, we thought nothing of cycling into Birmingham with the tandem and trailer – not that we would attempt that today! Nick progressed to a child seat and baby Tim took over the trailer. In 1979, we took tandem, trailer and two children to southern Ireland via train and ferry: beautiful scenery, quiet roads and welcoming people.

By 1980, another baby had arrived. So now it was a case of kiddy cranks on the tandem, and baby trailer and child seat on a solo – and so our cycling family continued.

Thanks to British Rail banning the carriage of more than a couple of cycles on trains, driving lessons became necessary and a car had to be purchased – with a roof rack and trailer fitted to carry five bikes.

Holidays in Holland

In 1984, we decided we wanted to go to Holland, and through the CTC touring department we were put in touch with Bart and Noor Gietema in Den Haag. Bart met us off the ferry and we cycled along the paths into Den Haag.

We had a wonderful holiday cycling in Holland, being able to visit my cousin’s family, seaside resorts and adventure parks. Our friendship with Bart and Noor continued and we visited Holland again in 1995, with Tim and Heather, and were introduced to Friends on the Bike, an organisation that brings together ‘Friends’ offering accommodation to cycling guests in private houses all over Holland.

What an experience! Further cycling holidays to Holland have taken place over the years using Friends on the Bike accommodation.

Cycling in Holland can’t be compared to cycling in Britain; the facilities and encouragement to cycle there are very different. Admittedly, a lot of the country (though not all) is flat, the cycle paths are wide and go everywhere. Even in the middle of Amsterdam cyclists have good cycle paths.

We now visit the country on organ tours, and parents are seen with one or two children on bikes cycling to school (it does seem that the school day starts later than ours). Our (late) friend Bart worked for the government in Den Haag and he cycled to work – can we imagine our politicians doing that en masse!

We need good cycle paths nationwide,  covering all towns and cities, and encouragement from the Government to cycle or walk and make fewer journeys by car.

Keeping it in the family

Both our sons as teenagers joined in the CTC junior tours. Five to six days of group cycling with a leader, they were very well looked after and really enjoyed the experience. As a family, we joined several birthday rides, which were excellent – when he was 10, Nick appeared on the cover of the CTC magazine at the cutting of the cake at the Coventry birthday ride.

Nick now works for the police and cycles almost daily into Birmingham, using the canal paths. He uses an electric bike for this journey of 11-12 miles, but continues riding a solo, with his three-year-old son on a child seat.

Our daughter is still a keen cyclist, living in London, with two children, one on a Rann trailer, the older girl on a solo – we took our older granddaughter cycling at the Olympic Park on one occasion. Sadly, in the autumn, our daughter’s bike, trailer and granddaughter’s bike were all stolen from outside a local swimming pool, even though they were locked.

At the age of 76 we are still cycling; though I will admit our mileage has gone down. Eddie had a triple heart bypass 16 years ago but hasn’t stopped cycling, and I have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis of the knees, but they are better on a bike than walking.

We have an incredible lady on our Wednesday rides aged 92; it’s difficult to keep up with her sometimes! We do have a car, and though I have never learnt to drive – I am good at carrying shopping on a bike!