This year I've became a quotable trend statistic. Not just once, but twice.
I'm now officially part of the percentage of folk, who spent the previous two years re-evaluating life in the 'burbs, deciding that it was for us no more, so upped sticks, and moved to the, er, sticks.
We have escaped to the country.
Life on the foothills of the Peak District on the very edge of Greater Manchester has been very much a quintessential British experience of village life. It's small enough that the Post Office messages me on Facebook about bike and product deliveries and our, award winning, village fish and chip shop, uses potatoes grown by Farmer John, the very same one who owns the Farmer Johns Mountain Bike Park.
What village life has meant however is that 'getting away from it all' literally means getting away from it all.
On your bike
Living part way up a hill in a village situated in a valley, requires a gruelling climb in either direction to access greater civilisation, suddenly saw our family car reliance increase.
And this was the second set of statistics I had become. I was now adding to the 71% of car journeys that are under five miles.
A thoroughly depressing backward step for a family who moved to get closer to nature, have been actively trying to improve sustainability choices and reduce their carbon footprint.
Going by bike is an obvious answer to this, but with a seven, now eight year old, the feasibility of getting up these hills on her own bike, or even riding at the rear on a tag along, with panniers wasn't something for the faint hearted.
So I decided to do something quite radical.
I brought a bit of 'city' to this rural idyll, and it came in the form of electric cargo bikes.
We became something of overnight celebrities in the village, forget getting a dog, if you want to become part of a community, get a cargo bike. But be prepared to have a lot of conversations with a lot of people you've never met before, and then never make is secretly out of the village again, as everyone will know you.
If you want to make a difference and an impact then these are exactly how too.
These bike became so life changing, all have stand out reasons for doing so, but all are united in the same qualities in their core.
They brought us joy. Oh so much joy.
Our family have honestly had some of the best conversations riding these. They gave us a chance to appreciated the important things in life again.
Instead of my child learning new profanities, watching me spiral in a rapid mental health decline that only the M60 can do to a driver, we spotted wildlife, unexpected river views and even the laughed hard (and still do) at the time we got soaked through to our pants after getting caught in a storm.
It's bigger than just us, these bikes genuinely were conversation starters, we've spoken to complete strangers about their cycling adventures of their youth, how they want to change their lifestyles and habits too and how can they go about it. We would never had had even so much as eye contact if we hadn't have been on the bike.
It's reminded me how bike riding can do that to people, just open you up like a therapists couch.
That's why I picked all three as my gear of the year.
Tern GSD S10
After meeting my life partner, having my daughter, I'd say one of the next big life changing moments for us as a family was gaining the Tern GDS S10.
As I said in the review, this bike made us genuinely happier people. It gave us the time and headspace to notice all the little things that give you that everyday gratitude buzz, that endless hours sat in a car in traffic kills so quickly. It wasn't even a hard swap from car to bike for all the sub five mile journeys, especially as we have a garage with electric to store and charge the bike in.
I've only ever used it with one battery (there's space for two) but we still manage to ride in to Manchester city and back with all the above mentioned cargo, and still have a bar of energy left on the digital display.
We've loved its nimbleness, it scoots, more or less, through all the pinch points that the council seem obsessed with flanking access to cycle paths nearly impossible for cyclists.
It's even happy on bridleways, sort of. If there was one bike that demanded a recategorization of electric cargo bikes from city to all terrain this would be it.
My colleague, Anne-Marje, had the Tern Quick Haul D8 and rated it almost as much as we did the GDS.
We've been riding it since late Spring, and now as the season turns to winter, this wee beastie is still hauling us up and down hills. One thing for sure, when this bike goes back there's going to be a the Tern GDS S10 shaped hole in all our hearts, at home and in the village.
Raleigh Stride 2 Cargo bike
If you are seeking a way to make a daily commute less soul destroying for a busy family then I absolutely promise you that the Raleigh Stride 2 Cargo bike is it.
Pure unadulterated fun like this for a small child, and adult, is just wholesome joy. My 8 year old never lost the excitement of feeling like she was flying, riding shotgun on the out front cargo load of the Stride 2.
Something so mundane such as going shopping actually had a child wanting to come just for the journey alone.
If it hadn't have been for such narrow pinch points on our regular commute we would have spent a lot more time as a family on this bike, but an opportunity to loan it to a friend actually made me appreciate the bike's versatility way more.
As well as the regular family commuting rides, the Raleigh also became part of a bigger community, where its been ridden for organic and refill deliveries, dropped off meal kits to a youth project and even ferried a second bike as cargo.
If you were wondering about the "but what about when it rains, or get's really cold" question, then it's worth checking out the brands extensive accessories which includes a roof, that totally encases cargo, aka your kids/ shopping/ kitchen sink, in a weatherproof bubble.
If there was a ever a bike to truly tackle the can we live without a car question then this has to be it.
Mycle Cargo Electric bike
The Mycle Cargo Electric bike is the punk rock of all cargo bikes, and one that has bought me the best laughter in years.
The untamed and raw finish is what brings this bike to it's personality, something feels almost illegal about buzzing about with another adult on board. It's quick hop on and off design naturally gravitates rogue additional passengers just sliding onboard wherever you ride, although we had the most fun with Aunts, uncles and even a Grandad, although a little one would never pass up an opportunity to hitch a ride either.
There is nothing that can beat the memories of total fun of riding this bike.
From beating all the bank holiday traffic and managing to get our family of three adults and a child out to several Royal Jubilee celebrations on this and a second cargo bike, to taking 74 year old Grandad up the hill to the carnival for the day when parking for both would have been a nightmare.
Offering lifts to the pub and rocking up unexpectedly on this bad boy by far the best. It absolutely made the summer one of the best in a long long time.
It's a bit unrefined and rough around the edges, but the price tag make it a so much more accessible than the others, which is just as important as how smooth power transfer is.
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