In which the Reluctant Cyclist and her bike take a ride
The aqua-coloured Primavera bicycle I had fallen in love with back at the Bike Show arrived just in time for the weekend. The lovely people at Naturally Connected had agreed to lend it to me for a little trial ride, which I envisaged involving me nonchalantly cruising around the streets of Cambridge dressed as something out of Brideshead Revisited. It is the kind of cycle that cries out to be ridden under blue skies, preferably by a river, with swans around. This was not to be the case.
My swimming companion turned up on his bike assuming that it would, as usual be hiked up onto my car's bike rack and we'd drive to the pool as usual. (Note to the ed. Yes, my car has a bike rack on it. No, it is never my bike that I transport. Yes, I appreciate the irony.) Despite the rain, which had all afternoon veered between wild and torrential, I insisted that we would both be riding to the pool. My general cycling reluctance was pitted against the guilty feeling that if the company could drive 60 miles to deliver a bike to me to try out, the least I could do was ride the 6 mile round trip to the swimming pool. It wasn't as though I was expecting to spend the evening staying dry anyhow, so there was no point in whinging about the weather.
Lesson #1 Dress for the weather
Of course life generally doesn't mirror art, so instead of my vintage clothing choices, I instead donned my waterproof horse riding over trousers and a ski jacket to try and insulate myself against the worst of the weather. Fortunately my swimming companion was an old friend, who had seen me looking much worse and was anyway still too dumbfounded by my eagerness to cycle to cast any aspersions on my choice of attire.
Lesson #2 If the bike fits, ride it
We set off down paths, which had, until the afternoon's Googlemap planning session, remained unknown to me, and headed to the pool. I felt rather like I was riding a child's bike, albeit a very pretty one. This was later explained when I realised that the seat was height adjustable and that at 5'6 I was better suited to it being about a foot higher than its original setting. One rather short and achy swim later, in the dark and the damp, my friend introduced me to the marvel that is the quick release seat clamp, raised the seat to a suitable level, and waved me off homewards.
Lesson #3 Spanners are useful friends
There are lots of things I didn't know that I didn't know about bikes until I needed to know them. On this damp evening the most important thing I didn't know was that a new bicycle should be adjusted before one sets off for a ride. Preferably this should take place somewhere warm and light, in the company of someone who knows what the hell they are doing.
Ten minutes into my ride home, it was quickly becoming clear that this pre-ride set up was really rather important. My arms and legs were already aching from having ridden the bike on a setting far too small for me, and the newly raised seat had not been effectively tightened so with each turn of the pedals I sank lower and lower on the saddle until I was cycling with my knees around my ears. This was not a naturally tenable place for my legs, so I stopped and re-raised the seat and set off again. This charade happened at approximately 2-minute intervals until because of my rising panic levels, my aching limbs and the inclement weather I managed to miss the path towards my house and ended up on one that ran in completely the wrong direction.
Lesson #4 Have a back up plan
Feeling very silly for having got lost in my own city, and for being daft enough to not check the whole 'is the bike road-ready' thing, I pushed the beloved cruiser through the well-lit cycle paths to the main road where I saw a knight in shining armour. This knight was a minibus style taxi, which, it suddenly struck me, was exactly the right size to fit a bicycle in. I hailed the cab and the Primavera and me were transported safely home. It had been my plan to take the bike I had fallen in love with on a ride, but not a ride in a taxi.
They do say that the path of true love never does run smooth.
The Reluctant Cyclist will be reviewing the Primavera bike, so watch this space.