Here are the various thoughts that occur to me when I think about my bike.
Small changes can lead to big ones
Haha! ‘Big ones’. Hah. But yeah. Instead of a 25-minute walk to work, now it’s a 10-minute cycle. Not such a big deal, you might think, but I’ve gone from not-quite-enough-time-to-do-anything-worthwhile-before-I-have-to-get-the-bus-to-training to hey-actually-now-I-can-cook-dinner-and-eat-it-before-cycling-to-training.
I haven’t cooked for years and years, and now I’m grillin’ turkey up in this motha-flipper. Protein is good before doing physical stuff, right? I am pretty sure someone said that to me once, or I read it online.
It’s surprising how quickly fear can melt away after you commit to something
I can’t even tell you how scared I got when I thought about roundabouts. The first few trips, I stuck to pavements as much as I possibly could. Even cycle paths were dodgy. I mean, they’re right there on the road, next to cars.
After a couple of weeks, I was whizzing around like no-one’s business. Some roundabouts are still worse than others, of course. Even friends of mine, much more experienced in both cycling in Cambridge, will still say “Yeah, don’t touch that roundabout. It’s death.” But aside from the odd exception, I’m feeling pretty good.
When you are forced to pay attention, you realise how little you used to notice
My trust level in absolutely everyone and everything around me drops by a thousand percent as soon as I get on my bike.
I don’t drive, so I have never needed to pay much attention to the rules of the road. Getting into the right lane, when and where you can turn, giving way, all that stuff. Most of it is pretty straightforward, but I never had to think about it before now. I have to snap my head around like crazy making sure I have looked in every posible direction for cars. But it’s good. I have to pay attention. It’s suddenly a priority.
Pedestrians looking down at your phone with big headphones on. Are you going to keep walking in a straight line? Yeah? Are you sure you won’t wander into the cycle lane? Really? ARE YOU SURE? Because I’m not.
Buses. You are big. I am small. When you overtake me suddenly I feel like I’m in the opening sequence for Star Wars. It is worrisome.
Cars with L plates. That’s interesting. Finally someone on the road who might be more scared of me than I am of them.
Other cyclists. I thought perhaps there would be an unspoken bond, an invisible but unbreakable thread that connects us all. Then an old lady on a bike called me an idiot, and later in the same trip, when I slowed and wobbled more than I should have, a pretty girl gave me a look so withering I think a pot plant I haven’t even bought yet died. Maybe there’s no thread. That’s okay.
Make the most of your freedom
How appropriate for the 4th July.
I don’t live near to any decent shops or supermarkets. In every other respect my house is great, but the area… inconvenient at best. Suddenly, having a bike (and a rucksack) means I can just go get whatever, whenever.
Admittedly… I haven’t actually done much of that. But I do really love being able to just hope off Roy on the way home, lock him up, pop into a supermarket, buy some shizzle, and then back on my merry way. It’s cool.
I know that everyone drives, and everyone went through this feeling of liberation when they were like sixteen. I know, okay.
Momentum is crucial
Fuck you, red traffic lights. Especially when they change just as I arrive, and I don’t have time (or, let’s face it, the presence of mind) to switch gears to something lighter.
Stopping then starting again takes so much more energy than you think it will/should. Not just physically, but psychologically.
When I’m pedalling away as fast as I can, I feel like a penguin swooping through ice cold water with effortless grace.
When I have stopped, and I’m trying to start again, and I’m in the wrong gear (again), and I wobble all over the damned place… I feel like a penguin waddling along on dry land.
Trust yourself to find the flow
When I approach a roundabout and I look to see what is coming and how fast, there’s a split second when I have to make a decision. Stay? Go?
It’s exhilirating, because I’m entering a kind of choreographed dance. Imagine that moment in a movie when two pigtailed girls are swinging huge long skipping ropes in both directions at once, and you have to pick your moment to jump in – only the skipping ropes are made of electrified barbed wire.
Be brave. Find the gap. Find your place.
So, I tried to write all the headers in such a way as to make them worthwhile ways to live life generally, rather than just being specifically about cycling. Did you get that? You probably got that.
But wait! There’s a third level! If you do any martial arts, I reckon those headings still make sense in a fight situation. Oooooooh it’s all cirles in circles, man!