My Addiction To The Bike
The weather was great here in Suffolk again yesterday, for the 6th day in a row. This must be some kind of record this year, so I thought I would take the opportunity to finish work early and go for a ride while it was still proper daylight.
As I was winding my way through quiet lanes, past cornfields with their edges lined with Oak trees I started to wonder what it was about cycling that made it so addictive for me.
When you think about it, people are generally quite lazy and will almost certainly go for the easy option in life. This doesn’t fit with riding a forty mile route in baking hot weather.
The first time I got back into cycling was probably around 1995 after many years of indulging in the teenage passions of drinking, smoking and not watching what I was eating. As a result of this I hit eighteen stone. For some reason the seed of bike riding must have been ignited again having laid dormant in me for many years. I picked up a catalogue, thumbed through it and bought myself a cheap mountain bike.
This seed, then flourished again. I remember distinctly my first ride. I went approximately two miles and stopped in the road. I thought I was going to die. I was red faced, sweating and thought my lungs were going to burst. At this point I turned back not sure I would be able to get home. So that was it, Four miles of absolute hell. But it was a wakeup call for my body and the addiction began.
I quickly learnt that my bike was a pile of poo compared to what everyone else was riding so I sold it amazingly to someone who was even less well informed than me. I then moved up the biking ladder gradually getting better bikes until I got hold of what I would call a proper mountain bike. It was a Specialized Stumpjumper fsr. By now I had really got the bug and was going down to Wales to ride in places that I’d never ridden before. Places like Afan Forest and Cwmcarn. You slowly seem to get drawn into the lifestyle and here in Wales the company was brilliant with likeminded people about me who just loved everything to do with biking.
I stayed with mountain biking for a while, but I found myself riding the roads more and more. If you’ve read yesterday’s blog about my Dad you will know about his Holdsworth. He gave it to me when he upgraded to a modern road bike so I decided to try it out. It seemed like such an alien piece of machinery, with its skinny tyres and what I thought at the time were dangerously narrow bars, not to mention the very tall gearing that I wasn’t used to.
However, I loved it. Shortly after this discovery something happened that actually changed my life in cycling even more. My neighbour accidently burnt my garden shed down. I was devastated as by now I had a nice collection of bikes and parts totalling around £7000.00. The worst thing for me was that the Holdsworth had gone. The shed had also contained three large bbq gas bottles, which vented to turn my shed into a fireball the likes of which I had never seen. Even the fire brigade wouldn’t approach it without first looking round the corner at it from a safe distance with a thermal imaging camera.
When it was eventually put out I discovered melted pools of aluminium where my bikes had once been hung on the walls. It even melted most of the frame of the Holdsworth, which was incredible as this had a steel frame. I felt awful for my Dad because he had had it so many years without problems, then I have it for a year and it’s gone. A friend said to me its better that it went that way rather than some kid nicking it and vandalising it which I suppose is true.
I got the insurance money and with it bought my first proper road bike. Influenced once again by my Dad I bought a Trek 1500. Once I got used to the feeling of being on a road bike I absolutely knew this is what I should be riding. It felt so comfortable and the large 61cm frame was perfect for my size. I started going out in the evenings and at weekends and quickly I started to find the limitations of the bike. I decided to trade up again and bought a brand new Trek Madone in Discovery Channel colours. It was unbelievably light being a full carbon frame and I then turned into a half descent rider with an absolute love of hill climbing. I go to my Dad’s to ride in the South of France and the mountain rides are out of this world.
I have kept this bike now for ten years and have no intention of parting with it. I am probably a little obsessive about it. It has to be in tip top shape all the time. When I prepare for a ride I go into a sort of set routine which is always the same right down to the two pieces of kitchen roll neatly folded into thirds in my back pocket. It’s become like a ritual. But I do this so that when I get on and go I know that I can relax knowing I have done everything for a trouble free ride.
I do have days, as I’m sure everyone does when I can’t get a rhythm going or I feel uncomfortable or my breathing doesn’t settle but that doesn’t stop the love affair with the bike. You accept these days as blips in an otherwise perfect relationship with man and machine. It’s hard to describe to someone who doesn’t cycle just how harmonious you can be with your bike.
If you are thinking of taking up cycling and have just read this blog, I hope it will give you some inspiration to go for it. I can honestly say I have had some of the best times of my life on my bike and met some of the greatest people I know. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn’t got back on it. But I do know it changed my life for the better in more ways than I could imagine, so go for it and good luck.