Opinion: Navigating everything from bikes to baskets

I was reading the other day that every hour you spend cycling you get one back – meaning your life expectancy is improved by an hour because of the cardiovascular workout.

I did wonder how various farming activities would compute in this “effect on life expectancy” analysis, but could only conclude that every hour spent on the phone to my grain merchant probably decreased my life expectancy by a whole week – given the stress involved in hearing about collapsing commodity prices.

But let’s get back to the subject of pedal pushers. It used to be the case that you could split cyclists into two camps. Those who averaged less than 10mph – typically old folk on machines not built for speed. Then there was your dedicated racing cyclist who, on lightweight frames, averaged more than 20mph. But now there is a new category, known as “Mamils” – middle-aged men in Lycra. This new breed seem to randomly average anywhere between 10mph and 20mph – and there, dear reader, is my problem. My combine has a top road speed of 20mph. Consequently, when moving the over-wide beast on the public road, the worst thing I can come up behind is a Mamil sauntering along at 10-15 mph.

See also: Opinion: A message to motorists stuck behind my tractor

As he looks round, the Mamil becomes alarmed as to what is bearing down on him and speeds up to something between 15mph and 20mph, leaving me with the predicament of either trying to pass him with my extra 1 mph or sitting in his slipstream looking like the most unlikely peloton imaginable. Eventually, after about five minutes, he gets knackered and pulls over to let me pass. Meanwhile I’ve gathered enough cars behind me to make it look like the Clacton Tourist Office has put together its longest and dullest carnival parade ever.

And this leads me to the tricky subject of farm traffic on roads. When you consider our grandfathers drove herds of cows along the same roads that we struggle to drive along with cars today, you do wonder if the word “progress” is a good way to describe changes on our roads since the war.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t be without my farm truck so I can’t really begrudge others their choice of a similar sort of motorised transport. Similarly, I get frustrated when I come up behind impassable, slow-moving vehicles on the road so it is hypocritical to expect others to be delighted to be following me as I plod along in my combine.

See also: Have your say on this issue on our forum

Generally, when moving our combine around on public roads, I’m amazed how good-natured and tolerant other road users are. Most will happily forego their right of way to let you pass, especially when I give them a wave and a smile. They are usually good enough to return the compliment. Of course, there is still the occasional pillock wanting all of his side of the road with his foot on the throttle and his two fingers up against the windscreen, but let’s remember the good nature of most people rather than the stupidity of the single idiot.

So I will leave you with a wish for courtesy, safety and diligence when out on the road in your tractors and combines over the next few months. Remember to try to see yourself as others see you through their lowly car windscreens and not just as you see yourself from the loftier perspective of your cab.

Finally, I’d just like to thank the owners of the pub at the village crossroads for being so understanding about their wrecked hanging baskets. I will be more careful next time and won’t forget just how big my bum is when in my combine.

Guy Smith comes from a mixed family farm on the north-east Essex coast. The farm is officially recognised as the driest spot in the British Isles. Situated on the coast close to Clacton-on-Sea, the business is well diversified with a golf course, shop, fishing lakes and airstrip. He is vice-president of the NFU.


See more