My bicycle is slower than your car. It’s not necessarily deliberate, it’s because it is powered by a pair of human thighs and a single middle-aged heart – so please don’t get enraged about ‘cyclists’. I am not a cyclist; sometimes I am a driver. I’m also Southern Vectis bus key card holder. I have a motorbike licence, and also a pair of serviceable legs which I use to walk about.
A few years back, my mate Phil was fundraising on the downs. “Would it be cheating if we drove Walk the Wight?” his daughter asked hopefully – and, from this little bit of grit, a pearl was created. The concept of not just walking the Wight, but incorporating a bit of driving, maybe a bicycle – hell, even a spacehopper! – evolved and crystallised.
I, along with two madcap plucksters (let’s call them Mat and Matt), rose to the challenge. There were two constraints: the ‘race’ would start and end at two National Trust landmarks: Bembridge Windmill and Needles Battery, and (at least) ten different forms of transport must be used. And so Wight Decathlon was born.
When the day came, I was sped away by the Island’s own Caractacus Potts, Newchurch’s Nick Pointing, in his spectacular replica Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We zoomed to Brading Station and I caught the bouncy Island Line train to Sandown. Using my bicycle, Phil’s tricycle, a zipwire(!), the floating bridge, Peregr1n’s motorbike, Yarmouth harbour taxi, my car, Alum Bay chairlift (LOVE the chairlift!), then a child’s scooter followed by a piggyback from a third Matt, five-and-a-half hours after starting I was across the finishing line at Needles Battery.
That was back in 2012 and, the following year, we had another go. This time the Mat/ts combined forces and started the race on a tandem, me in a sports car. Mat made the journey from east to west entirely under his own power, and Matt took in all the Island’s cardinal points. I included the People’s Ride – Sainsbury’s travelator – and sprang to the finish on a borrowed pogostick. I was hoping Wight Decathlon would become an annual event but disappointingly it withered away after year two.
Some drivers moan about bicycles, horses on the carriageway, tractors and the bin trucks, but I think of these as potential Wight Decathletes, getting around the Island in a range of ‘madcap’ vehicles. When I park at Shide then incorporate a bit of cycling into my commute; when I zap my key card for the bus ride from Newport on a Wednesday; when I walk home from Ryde Esplanade, watching sandpipers feeding by the pier at low tide, I pretend that each journey is a leg of my own revived Wight Decathlon.
This article first appeared in print in the Isle of Wight County Press on 2 June 2017.