Mr Z has always been a cyclist. Way back in the day he would get home from school, get his rad mountain bike out from the garage and hammer it around the neighbourhood with his buddies like a child possessed.
|The abomination looked a like this|
At university the bike changed, to an even radder BMX, but he always cycled to lectures. With or without a hangover and bloodshot eyes.
Mr Z wavered when he got his first job, adopting the idiotic, yet common, practice of having a job in a different city to the one he worked in. Less than a year later he’d had enough of complaining about time spent commuting with colleagues and so taking action, moved city and changed job.
A new city and an EVEN radder mountain bike brought cycle commuting back in, along with 6am get ups to get in some mountain biking before work. Happy days.
Cue the mystical music
Somewhere along the way things changed, the bike went from being an instrument of joy to one of pure fitness.
It went from a tool to perch a top of, with a smug grin wondering why in the name of holy hell someone would sit in a car for 45 minutes everyday when they could cycle the same distance in 20 minutes.
And it went to a race bike, cleats, lycra and an uncomfortable aerodynamic position. Cycling became solely about going as quick as possible, going as far as possible and devising training schemes to ‘write my legs off’. Don’t get me wrong, I still love this type of cycling.
A few words of warning, if I may. If you aren’t the most flexible person, doing mile upon hard mile will leave you with short weak hamstrings and a horrendous lower back will follow.
This meant a crappy start to the year for cycling followed by about 5 months off the bike to weight train some strength into my seemingly 70 year old back and to stretch some flexibility into my rigid legs. (And a lingering suspicion that my body wasn’t built for cycling, but perhaps for wrestling.)
Trips to the gym recently increased, now it is everyday. This meant using the car at the weekends to squeeze gym trips in, I had convinced myself that cycling the three miles would instantly result in back pain.
Last weekend, the fuel light came on. Burning money to travel a few miles…to do some exercise. I had to suplex myself.
Motivation coursing through my body, I trotted outside in the rain and fixed my old bike up, nothing more than pumping up the tires, realigning the brakes and cleaning the rust off a few bolts. Then span my way to the gym, a grin slowly spreading across my face. Even the bugs slamming into my pearly whites couldn’t dampen my mood.
It occurred to me that this was the first time in years that I was using the bike purely for transport.
There was no 20 mile loop squeezed in before work, no blasting out a few hill reps in a lunch hour or trying to hit a ‘tempo’ pace along a five mile straight with my lungs trying to climb out of my head.
I used the bike for it’s primary purpose, efficient transportation that doesn’t involve using a one and a half tonne vehicle to move a single 70kg body.
An hour was then spent fixing pannier racks back onto the bike and giving Mrs Z’s bike a once over. Shopping is now done from the bikes.
Cycling back from work one night this week, the city was grid locked. I gently span passed the traffic, seemingly every car was filled with a single occupant, face red with rage and indignity.
“How could this possibly be? How could the traffic system not be flowing? How is it that me and my 4 empty seats cannot move, just WHAT is taking up all the room? I cannot comprehend how me and my fellow motorists in our excessively massive vehicles that are limited to travelling one way down fixed paths could ever be in a situation where we can’t move.” the car owners seemed to be thinking.
This city wide gridlock added not a single minute to my journey home, and perhaps even added a tiny little bit of smugness to my life.
Looking back over the last few months, I had descended into the habit of making excuses.
Whilst the sore back at one point was actually bad enough that I needed to roll out of bed some mornings and couldn’t cycle if I wanted to. The injury had since become an excuse to take the easier option. And that’s a dangerously lazy slope to start slithering down. It’s annoyingly easy to slip into bad habits without noticing it.
Sure, I’ll get back into long distance cycling at some point. For now, the happiness cycling brings is the main thing.
The financial benefits that inevitably follow biking more are a nice bonus, but they have never been the primary motivation for cycling.
It’s one of self sufficiency and of efficient travel. There’s no need to look for enough space to park your tonne of metal and then pay for the privilege. There’s no worrying about finding a petrol station, just eat some food. No checking the traffic before you set off. It doubles up as free exercise as well as transportation.
Cars are an incredible bit of engineering, but their use should be restricted to times when they come into their own. 100 mile journeys. Or carrying really heavy things, like a wardrobe.
It’s annoying that it took an injury, but I’ve refound cycling for it’s simple joys. It might be winter, but it’s always the right time to get out on your bike.