As many will know, over the years I have taken delight in lambasting cyclists doing stupid things as I’ve been driving (such as running red lights, cycling with no lights and in dark clothing at night, basically ignoring the rules of the road at every possibility). My Triathlon friends will also attest to my general apathy towards their pursuits as jack of all trades, although this was always in jest (honest!). It is therefore with a lot of humility I finally have decided to make public the fact that I have taken up cycling to try and get back some fitness!
Running used to be my thing, getting up to a reasonable standard (county level) and a few minor medals, but the years of training, at my peak 70-80 miles a week, took their toll and eventually my knee gave in about 7 years ago with no warning. More recently the opposite hip has also gone and will need a replacement in the not too distant future, so all in all any impact sport has been a no-go for a long time. I have to admit when the knee first went I endured a few very dark months, but then just got out of the habit of exercise (it’s fine doing non-running things when you know it’s maintaining fitness for when your injury is better, but when there’s no end-game what’s the point?). Operations and physio have helped with the day to day pain, but even when the knee is eventually replaced, running (at least to a level that I would be content with) is not going to happen.
I’d always put off taking up cycling, I used to do a lot of cycle touring growing up, but never felt the urge to do any serious stuff. Then over the last summer a good friend of mine lent me a bike to see what would happen, and although the action aggravates my hip somewhat (especially if I try to go up a hill out of the saddle) the pain is tolerable and more importantly the knee is fine. I’d forgotten what it’s like to be out in the open air exercising, getting out of breath, heart pumping, and that glorious pain in the muscles from over-doing it. I was also surprised how much latent fitness/endurance was still stored away as a memory in my legs, it wasn’t long before I started racking up some decent rides and invested in my own machine. Still early days, and it’s certainly not as rewarding as I used to find running, but better than nothing and finally getting some fitness back and losing some excess weight!
And now the next hurdle has been overcome, revealing my secret!
To finish, some observations from the past few months:
- Like the vast majority of cyclists aren’t dicks and you only notice the ones doing stupid things, I was surprised to discover that this is also true of motorists, the vast majority are sensible but it’s the odd one or two that you notice (and boy you notice it!);
- It is not difficult to signal to let cars know what you’re doing;
- It is not difficult to go around a roundabout without cutting up cars on entry and exit;
- North of Coventry is a lot more hilly than I remembered;
- If it looks like the rain is going to hold off, it won’t;
- The more visible you are, the closer to you cars seem to want to drive;
- There are some very good cycle lanes…
- But also some very bad ones;
- If you go past another cyclist going up a hill you need to be confident you can maintain your speed (!);
- Bus drivers are universally idiots;
- 30 mph road signs are a challenge not a limit;
- Falling over because you forget to detach cleats from pedals in time is embarrassing;
- In cold weather your toes get colder a lot quicker than your fingers;
- Winter (weather + dark evenings) really screws up training more than for running.