In which the Reluctant Cyclist turns into Bridget Jones
On being told that the only way to get accustomed to the new skinny saddle was to ride every day for a bit, I took up the challenge; here is my diary of a cycling week.
Having pledged to ride every day for a week, I completely forgot about this until 9pm at night, when, feeling that to fail on day 1 was too poor a show even for me to contemplate, I got the bike out from the garage.
As I haven’t as yet really understood the concept of ‘going for a ride’ as opposed to ‘riding to get to x’, I decided to aim for the large Tesco about a mile and a half from my house. There was a Tesco Express nearer but I thought that riding there, a total distance of 3 roads, was not really going to do much to help my sore bottom acclimatise. Also, it was getting dark and I was pretty sure I could purchase bike lights at the big Tesco so that I could safely and legally ride home again afterwards.
I can sum up the first few minutes back in the saddle in one word. Agony. Despite having had a good 30-hours rest, the moment my sit bones made touchdown on the saddle the searing pain returned. This did not bode well for the rest of the week. After about a mile the pain started to subside and I made it to the shop before dusk turned to dark and the ten o’clock closure time.
Having lit up front and rear (of the bike), I headed in a circular route to go home, rather than retracing my steps. I had cycled to the shop on reasonably good condition wide pavements which were also cycle paths, but heading back from the other direction was another story.
At this end of town, the cycle paths were on the road and were seemingly painted for skinny people. The coloured path was barely wider than me on my bike, consisted mostly of gutter and fraying tarmac which twisted and turned around road calming bollards, on and off the pavement. This led to a very higgledy piggledy cycling experience. I thought ‘stuff this’ and ‘took the lane’ (we’re talking about a suburban traffic calmed road here, mind, not the M25). This resulted in a smooth and straight sail home, marred only by some lads in a souped-up Metro beeping at me from behind.
Taking the same attitude as when beeped at when driving, I turned round, smiled and blew a kiss, before continuing up the centre of the lane as before. I arrived home, having invented a new cycling device niche – light up bracelets so that people can see you are signaling. I thought I was a genius ‘till I googled and someone had thought of this already, damn them. There go the millions.
Being on holiday for the week meant that I had doctors and dentist appointments lined up for me and the children. I decided, with ten minutes to go before I was due at a new surgery, the most direct route was to cycle through the park rather than take the car, as there was no through road to take.
I set off apace (I can do this on the new bike) and quickly made it to the correct road for the surgery. Presenting myself at the receptionist’s window, it quickly became apparent that they had no idea what I was there for and might I want to try the other surgery up the road. I hopped back on my bike, flung the lock back in my bag and hot-wheeled it further up the road to try again.
Another minute another surgery window. No, this was the dentist not the doctors, and perhaps I should try back up the road near the roundabout. Lock off, helmet on, back up the road again, thinking that this would in fact be more difficult in a car. Surgery number three turned out to be the right one, and I put down my raised pulse and blood pressure down to the fact that I’d been bombing about on the bike, rather than any underlying illness.
What can I say, it was raining hard. I cycled to the hairdresser, who was rather confused as to why anyone would cycle in the rain in the knowledge that someone was going to be colouring and blow drying their hair. As a compromise, I didn’t put my helmet on for the return journey. Seeing as ‘return journey’ is a fancy word for the 5 streets through the quiet estate between my house and my hairdresser, I don’t feel that my cranium was put at too much at risk.
Cigarettes: 0 (to be honest I don’t actually smoke, so maybe Bridget Jones was not such a good comparator)
Alcohol: 0 (I do drink, but not that often)
Kilometers: 0 (or cycle that often it seems)
Everyone’s allowed an off day, right?
It was shopping time again, and of the Tesco variety, so out I pedalled to the larger store, this time with my youngest in tow. As I had discovered last time that the road hybrid had no mechanism for carrying bags, I headed out on my cruiser, complete with co-ordinated basket and pannier.
It was a slower ride, but in a lovely upright position, and I didn’t have to carry a rucksack (which I hate). The super comfy saddle was sofa-like in its squishiness, with such deep springs that I had to check it was on tightly as it moved a little like a wave machine on turning corners.
As I tried to get used to the gear system, I was confused by the fact that although the little lever clearly did something, I could only see one cog on each end of the chain so didn’t really understand how I was changing gear at all. Further research tells me that this is a hub gear, but I am frankly none the wiser.
It turns out that on my bike I can fit: washing powder, crackers, shampoo, bread, rabbit food, rice and a large glass vase in the shape of a fishbowl. Now that’s the beauty of a basket. My youngest, who has a pint sized basket fitted to her pint sized bike, carried one small and, by the end, slightly squashed loaf. Mission accomplished, though, and all in the beautiful sunshine too. I even saw a bunny as I cycled by.
Alcohol: 6 units
I did consider cycling but being as I live in Cambridge, and the gig I was attending was in London, I felt this was a little beyond my powers at the present time. Luckily for the traffic in London, I didn’t opt to cycle when there either as although I’m not sure it’s actually illegal to be drunk in possession of a bike, the night bus was a much safer option after my jaunt into town.
Having cycled with my youngest earlier in the week, it was the turn of my eldest. As she is starting secondary school in September, we have been trialling the cycling route every weekend for a while now. This Saturday she was ready to take the lead (still on the pavement until after her Bikability course). It was great to see her increased confidence on a route she now knew well.
It was only 7 minutes each way, but time well spent as I was seeing her grow into a confident teenager who would soon be able to get herself to and from school without supervision. Even her mum could be said to be a little more confident, especially that it might occasionally be easier and quicker to bike somewhere than to drive it.
Don’t set your heart on a total revolution though, it pissed it down on Sunday so I stayed in bed.