A Vicious Cycle

My Bicycle

My Bicycle: rarely spotted outside its natural habitat of the garage

Against all expectations, not least my own, today I found myself going out on a cycle ride. It was a very short cycle ride, but nonetheless people who know me will appreciate the rarity of this event.

It is not that I am a complete stranger to the bicycle: when I was a kid I cycled everywhere. Then again, when I was a kid there was little option as the law frowns upon underage driving of motor vehicles and this was before the time when parents felt honour-bound to drive their children everywhere.

Once I got my first motorbike at the age of 16 the bicycle was quickly relegated to the back of the garage. A few years ago I did have a brief dalliance with a bicycle borrowed from my brother; this inspired me to actually buy a bicycle of my own. Naturally I put that in the back of the garage where it has largely remained ever since.

So, why get the bicycle out now? Well, cycling looks like a good way to keep fit. When the sun is shining and I am stuck in a traffic jam in my hot car watching someone glide effortlessly past on a bicycle it looks like a much better proposition than the gym. Also, I have a number of friends who are mad cyclists (read that any way you like and it will still be true) who keep trying to persuade me of the joys of cycling. Maybe they can’t all be wrong.

I decided, therefore, that maybe I should start cycling to work occasionally when the weather is good. It is about 6 or 7 miles so, theoretically at least, no problem. First though, I thought I should take the bike out for a spin to check a) it still works okay and b) I can at least get to the end of the road without dying. Today everything came together in a perfect storm as I had the day off with nothing particular to do, the sun was shining and I received some gentle Facebook peer pressure to just tip me over the edge.

The cycle ride itself was nothing to write home about, especially if you are used to reading the cycling exploits blogged by Russell or Jan. According to my long-owned but only recently fitted bicycle computer I covered a measly 5.84 miles at an average speed of 13.9 mph. Clearly no land-speed records being broken there, so why did I fell so knackered!

I deliberately set out at a leisurely pace, but even so, the effortless glide that I admire in other cyclists clearly failed me. My route includes what in the car feels like a slight incline but on the bicycle feels like the north face of the Eiger. As I struggled up it, crunching gears and trying to prevent my lungs escaping through my nose, I had to ask myself: why?

Bicycle gears trouble me. There I am struggling along, barely able to turn the pedal, so I change down one gear. Suddenly the pedals are going around at an alarming rate whilst the wheels turn almost imperceptibly slowly. I am caught between dying of exhaustion or dying of old age before I crest the hill.

But then I crest the hill and am rewarded with the downhill, travelling at what feels like dizzying speeds, but in any other situation would still be painfully slow – i.e. anything over 25 mph. The wind rushes through my hair – or it would if I had any – and it all suddenly seems worthwhile. Until I arrive back on the main road that is and have to play chase tag with the No10 bus.

I finally arrive home after what feels like ages but in reality is far less time than it took to write this blog of my experience. My legs ache, my lungs are still lodged in the back of my nasal passages and, bizarrely, my wrists ache. If there was any part of my body that you would think could take the exercise it would be my wrists!

So, am I going to be cycling to work any time soon? The jury’s still out.

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About Darrel Kirby

I am what I am.
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9 Responses to A Vicious Cycle

  1. Rant says:

    Lesley and I have attempted to be a ‘cycling family’ on several occasions. Every single time we have ended up with either a puncture, whinging child or furious father. Most times it has been all three.
    Cars replacing cycles is simply evolution. Accept and embrace it.

  2. janh1 says:

    Good start, D! That distance to work is a piece of cake.

    Won’t be long before the gears become second nature. Just a matter of getting out there and riding. I’m teaching myself to ride no-hands at the moment. Not getting very far though. Eight seconds is my limit 🙂

  3. Darrel Kirby says:

    I fear my good friend Rant is a rare voice of reason on the subject!

    Jan: I think riding no-handed is one of those things that comes naturally as a child but leaves us as we mature. Perhaps it is a renewed respect for our teeth. Wheelies are similar. One of the funniest memories from my childhood was a friend doing a really impressive wheely and the front wheel falling out. Funnier for me than him, obviously.

  4. Russ says:

    We’ll convert you yet. I’m planning on a quick 15-20 miles Thursday afternoon if you fancy it – not too many hills. Either that or sometime over the weekend if you think you could keep up with Vic on her pink machine.
    Chances are, if your wrists ache you’re putting too much weight on the bars, possibly seat and bars too far apart.

    • Darrel Kirby says:

      Sadly (ahem!) I’ll be at work Thursday afternoon. And I suspect I’ll be far too busy at the weekend to risk being shown up by Vic.
      Thanks for clearing up the wrist thing, I’ll look into it next time the bikes out of the garage. If the next ice-age doesn’t get me first.

  5. Pseu says:

    I recommend you find a better route… is that possible? Bus tag is no fun at all! Set yourself up with a motivation prize each time you exceed the distance covered last time…?

    • Darrel Kirby says:

      You are right about bus tag – not good.
      I like the motivational prize idea – at the moment the prize is just getting off the bike!

  6. Joe K says:

    Persevering will be worth it. It’s the best way to combine cardio exercise and travel (unless you live in Venice). There have been times in my 43 years when I have hurried up the stairs and had to stop to catch my breath on the landing. I’m currently enjoying springing up them, even with a dodgy knee and sciatica. I can run up the two flights of steps of Gloucester Library too, as well as the ones next to the elevator in Eastgate Shopping Centre, when the lift is full (and that’s with two bags of shopping). This is not ‘Glawster- Born’ style exaggeration, either.

    Sure, when you start off cycling, after a long period of not cycling, there will be pain for a few days, maybe longer if you keep the pressure on, but after a few weeks you’ll notice the difference in those you don’t get out of breath doing any more. It’s to do with those little ‘twigs’ in the ‘branches’ of your lungs (I think they’re called brachiola or something) growing even smaller ‘twigs’ so that they can absorb more air. It’s an aerobic thing.

    Everyone should do it, but with the abuse of cycle lanes and suchlike, not everyone does.

  7. Pingback: Traffic Calming Revisited « Darrel Kirby's Blog

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