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Pick a Bike

Last week I wrote about our extended cruise on “Calder Valley” to find out how longer cruises differ from the one week trips we had done previously. As well as losing track of time - we found ourselves asking each other which day it was - we had to feed ourselves. With a one week holiday, you can load the boat with a heap of food and rely on that. Oh, and beer. And wine. And Pimms.

Keeping Fed

On a longer trip, at some stage you have to go foraging, which can be fruitful at some times of the year. In fact, we did make a damson crumble on that cruise

The snag is, foraging is unreliable, so we had to go shopping. Finding a supermarket or local shop close to the canal is difficult enough, but we then found the worst part of all. You have to carry everything you eat or drink back to the boat. The trip that started off with “let’s go shopping, there’s a supermarket just a mile down this road” later turned into “why is the boat always miles from the shop?", and "why are canals always uphill?” and the key question “why is shopping so heavy?”.

We thought long and hard about this when designing Perseverance. One answer was to persuade the Canal and River Trust to expand into retail and build a series of supermarkets at 10-mile intervals along the towpaths, but we didn’t think that would happen soon. Another answer was to reduce our food intake and only eat things that could be grown on board (didn’t Sir Francis Chichester eat cress on Gipsy Moth IV?), but it would take too long to grow a cucumber, which is essential for Pimms. And you can’t cruise without Pimms.


We finally settled on the solution of using bicycles. These not only get you to the shop, they can bring the heavy load back in panniers. The added bonus is that the range of travel from the boat is expanded from walking distances to cycling distances, so sight-seeing is improved.

One bike or two? Roma would never let me do the shopping on my own (the unreliable husband syndrome) and Roma doesn’t like cheese, so I have to go, else no cheese, and a poor selection of beer. So it had to be two bikes.

Electric or manual? At 65 years old, with loaded panniers and going uphill, an easy decision.

Folding or not? Come on, we’re on a narrowboat.

Curiously, our local cycle shop did not stock folding electric bikes. I would like to support local businesses, but I think they missed a trick here. Forced into Internet shopping we came up with the Furo X.

What this doesn't show is the thrill of becoming Superman. You can cycle without assistance on the flat, and when the going gets hard you just dial up an invisible hand that helps push the bike along. On really steep hills, dial up 5 and the bike just climbs a 1 in 4 without effort.

Bike Storage

Now all we had to do was get two folded bikes into the boat. Here’s how the stern was planned out. For this photograph, I'm up in the roof of my garage looking down on the concrete floor.

The curve of the stern gunwale is marked in cardboard, with gaffer tape where you walk on and off the boat. The mock-up includes a tiller and part of the taff rail. An early incarnation of our locker seat is top left. Moving below the deck the ruler and grey pipe mark the edge of our water tank, the cardboard box shows where one of the two Victron batteries was at that time (since moved and upgraded to MG batteries) and the center of the picture shows two folded bikes stored below deck. Don't forget the invisible weed hatch under the foot of the tiller.

No, we didn't buy two expensive bikes then see if they would fit. I had planned this stern layout using a 1/10th scale model of the stern components, so I knew the Tema motor would fit below the uxter plate and that the beam was wide enough for both bikes.


During lockdown, we used the bikes for exercise. When the exertion got too much, there was always an invisible hand, ready to help!

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