I started cycling again when mountain biking started to get popular in 1989 when my waist band size had increased to a more than sensible proportion and my ability to consider breaking into a run was way too ambitious to contemplate. I wasn’t a bloater, but I could easily have tipped over the edge into pot-bellied and sloth mode. The bikes at that time looked pretty cool, even if the guy on it should really be being more sensible. Big fat knobbly tyres, garish paint jobs and 18 gears. Engage second childhood (again) and I was off.
Previous cycling had taken place during my youth and probably extended into my early teens. My bike back then was maroon, second-hand ladies, single gear and the brakes were operated by a metal linkage rather than cables. The handlebars were bent round and of course a particularly interesting design point given falling off invariably included my knuckles being dragged along the tarmac which isn’t funny unless you’re watching it transpire. I still have the scars.
The bike was a second-hand present from my parents and I’m sure it had been second-hand to the previous owner(s) as well. It was the sixties and money wasn’t just tight, it just didn’t exist in enough of a quantity to cover new bikes or anything else much. Every summer cycling was our main pursuit, not just for fun, but also to get us to the berry picking a few miles away or a picnic at an orchard or to cycle friendly paths around derelict ground etc.
Following my return to cycling as a grown-up with a couple of kids a sizable mortgage and a BMW, I got into it seriously. I started off slowly, obviously, since licking a stamp was a fitness challenge for me then. One of my first cycle runs out was a 5 mile there and back again route. Luckily an elderly Aunt lived in the middle of it although she was at the top of a steep hill. Just as well she lived there though since I had to stop for a few minutes to be sick in her toilet, as the exertion was just too much for my wimp like stamina.
Within a few weeks I’d ditched the first bike and bought a proper 21 speed Giant mountain bike with a frame which weighed less than a half filled tea bag and gears which were so silky to change it was a pleasure rather than a lottery to find the gear needed to go anywhere.
I started off doing 5 miles twice a week or so but soon extended that to 10 – 15 miles almost everyday and sometimes up to 25 miles. It was great! Each time I went out I did a bit of off-road and some road stuff up hill and down dale. Great exercise!
I had a few close calls. Car drivers can be a bit lacking in awareness shall we say. A woman almost run me down at a roundabout purely because she couldn’t judge the width of her car, I almost got hit by a tanker as he was so close as he overtook me although I’m not entirely sure he knew I was there and one night some knobs threw a can of Pepsi at me as they sped past in their noisy Subaru with an exhaust you could park a mini in. They missed. Luckily. I never liked Pepsi anyway.
I haven’t cycled for about fours years now and even then it was a fairly short trip around some local streets in Edinburgh. I can’t say it was anything like enjoyable. Cycling up hill at a reasonable rate whilst a double decker plods along behind you isn’t my idea of fun. The bikes gone now, it went to a bicycle recycling place.
Full circle? Probably not. It’s all Bradleys fault. I watch the tour every year and have done for a while. Bradley winning was fabulous. This will have helped cycling in the UK, which has been looked down since bicycling was a working mans activity mainly to get to work. Now, excitable young things in brightly luminescent lycra (and that’s just the guys) are taking up cycling for fitness commuting and posing reasons.
A nice bike like Bradleys will set you back between £20,000 and £30,000, a decent affordable bike for yourself, probably £750ish?
But Bradley has made a mistake. Following the death of a cyclist outside the limpic park in London Bradley was asked if wearing a helmet when cycling should be compulsory.
He said yes.
Bad move Brad.
Sure a helmet might help but in general they aren’t much good. The design isn’t great and doesn’t divert any energy within the helmet it just diverts it all over your head.
If you fall down, even when walking or just standing and your head hits the something hard at 17 miles an hour or more, the likelihood is that you will either have a serious head injury or you’ll be killed. Fact. Maybe pedestrians should wear safety helmets too then? I’d ask Bradley but he’s not around at the moment.
I’ll leave it to you then. Wear one if it makes you feel better just don’t bet on it being much good if you really need it.