Saturday, 15 March 2014

The cycle of life

Last weekend saw one of those little 'eureka' moments. I may have trouble covering any distance on foot these days, but I have discovered that I can still cycle. And how fantastically liberating it is too!
Having spent the last four months progressively sitting on my arse gathering dust, lurching around on crutches like some deranged loony, then wobbling along with a walking stick and a limp, I've finally found something I can do that makes me feel almost normal. OK, I know that compared to a great many cyclists I'm only a little fish in a very big pond full of sharks (extra big feckin' sharks with lasers on their head, torpedos strapped to their fins, cunningly disguised in lycra and riding an expensive bike made of platinum and helium) but we all have to start somewhere.
Last Saturday was the first tentative venture out onto the road on two wheels since the accident back in November, and despite the lack of internal combustion engine it was still a bit nerve-racking. I did however manage a little six mile route and by the time I got back I felt better that I have in a long time.
The following day was glorious and absolutely demanded to be taken advantage of, so it was back onto the bike for an early morning circuit of ten miles, along with everyone else who was keen to take advantage of what seemed like the first really good day for months. All around were people cycling, running, riding motorcycles, driving around in open-top cars, and for once it felt as though all was right with the world. That feeling is pretty rare these days so I made the most of it.
Struck with the potential for a new-found obsession to replace that of motorcycles, I started doing my usual thing of trawling the web in search of a new toy to feed this new-found hunger, only to find myself in yet another world of baffling and bewildering choices.
A road bike (or racer, as they were known when I was a kid) would be great - lightweight, tall gearing etc, but how long will those razor blade wheels stand up to the fucked-up fen roads? Not long I suspect, so what about a hybrid with slightly chunkier tyres? well, to be honest I might as well stick with my lightweight Diamondback hardtail mountain bike that's fitted with narrower semi-slick tyres which offer significantly less resistance than the silly knobbly things it originally had. Trouble is the gearing is a bit low when I'm on a slight downhill or got the wind behind me.
The ideal thing would be a road bike with the wheels found on a hybrid. Turns out this is available and is termed a cyclocross bike. That's fine, but it seems that the chunkier tyres justify a somewhat chunkier price tag too, which is a bit odd considering this sort of bike is as close as you can get to the racers that were around when I was young. This was the default bike for every kid and teenager until the mountain bike arrived, when it suddenly became cool to be struggling around on the two-wheeled equivalent of an armoured truck. Big heavy steel frames and tyres taken straight from a motocross bike were the order of the day, with the extra low gearing needed not for conquering mountains but simply for overcoming the colossal weight and actually getting the damn thing moving.
Fortunately these monstrosities evolved into some decent useable machinery (apart from the crappy cheap-and-cheerful variety found for supposedly bargain prices in places like Tesco) and now the trend appears to be moving back towards road bikes and a surprising number of single speed bikes or 'fixies'.
The circle is now complete, and it has taken approximately thirty years for this to happen. Final confirmation of this will be when kids rediscover the joys of fixing a piece of stiff card to the bike so that the wheel spokes ping it as they go past, because it makes it sound like a motorbike.
Today I continued my quest by taking a quick seven mile ride with a brief pitstop for a pint half way which always makes any journey that bit more acceptable.
With any luck I'll be able to do a slightly longer ride tomorrow, trying to extend my range a bit at a time until I can bang out thirty miles or so in one go. Still small potatoes for some I know but for me and the wife it could be the saviour of our sanity - a position previously held by long country walks armed only with a bottle of water and an ordnance survey map. The only trouble is that riding together involves me having to stop every mile or so to wait for her to catch up, which suggests that in order for cycling to be a real replacement for our walking the only logical choice for the next bike is a tandem. I can see that being like a sketch from 'The Goodies'. God help us!

 Tandem riding - the fantasy

Tandem riding - the reality