You know those people who say in a cocky tone; “You never forget how to ride a bike”? Can you go and push them off their bikes for me, please? Preferably into a spiky hedge. With bees in it.
My helmet is strapped firmly to my head, my bell is within reach on the handlebars - or it would be if I dared take a hand off the handlebars – and I am wearing lycra. I heard a saying recently that was used to describe someone on a bike. It was “All of the gear ... no idea”. That pretty much sums me up.
Or maybe the slightly longer but possibly more accurate; “What the hell am I doing on a bike I can’t ride one of these.”
I’m lucky, my hometown of Rugby has a brilliant cycle network which meant I could try out my cycling skills – or lack thereof – with very little riding on the roads. I’d be able to pedal along safely on the specially designated path sharing it with pedestrians (lucky, lucky them) but without having to compete with the cars and lorries for my much-needed wobble space. Luckily there weren’t many pedestrians around (maybe they saw me coming) and the small amount of road cycling went smoothly and was incident - and mainly wobble -free.
I’d chosen Cycle Route 41 - which was familiar to me as a marathon training route - and while I enjoy running through mud, cycling through mud was a revelation. I’d forgotten the ‘whizzzz’ noise of tyres through puddles and the joy of trying to keep up speed through extremely sticky mud without putting a foot down in the muck. I’d forgotten the fun of cycling the trails, of ducking low branches and of the breeze that you don’t get when you run. I’d even forgotten the Cyclist’s Badge – the stripe of mud up your arse which identifies you immediately as being a cyclist – and worse - one unable to resist a muddy puddle.
I’d promised to be back within an hour, but the temptation was too much and after finding myself a little further away from home than expected, I decided to make my way home along the Oxford Canal Path where I could admire the pretty narrowboats while pedalling along.
It was lucky I did really. (If I completely ignore the fact that the puncture happened BECAUSE I was on the canal path and passing newly clipped hedges.) If I hadn’t been on the canal path, what were the chances of getting a puncture RIGHT OUTSIDE THE PUB?
Pretty low, right? See – a stroke of luck. It happening outside a convenient pub, I mean. Not the puncture. Terrible how these things happen. Tut tut. Must have a cider to steady my nerves.
|Nope. Definitely NOT at the pub.|
Luckily I was far enough away from home and it took my husband quite a while to shepherd the 5 year old into her car seat. Long enough for me to finish my pint and resume my position complete with stricken look and helpless posture next to my bike with the conveniently flat tyre. And hide the pointy stick.
|You Lookin' at ME?|
Not really. I’m not the desperate for a pint. Cough.
Trying to get a bike into the back of a Ford Fiesta while keeping one of the back seats up for a child seat was like those strange metal puzzles you get in Christmas crackers. You know there’s a way to do it, but there aren’t any instructions and you have to resist the urge to resort to brute force. There was also the ‘big box of crap’ which seems to reside in the boot of every car to navigate around.
Finally after a lot of (muffled) swearing, a lot of shoving and clanking and giggles we got a pushbike, a child seat, a 5 year old, 2 adults and a cardboard box of crap into a small family car.
It was like oily, muddy magic. But in a Fiesta.