Zombies are on the loose & it’s bicycles they’re after….
I have recently taken up cycling. The main impetus was to get healthy, but the fact I can come and go when I like is a bonus. Getting to work from home and visa versa is easy. I am no longer reliant on public transport that seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to turning up. It is a freeing experience and I’m glad I took it up.
That said I am not sure if the pros outweigh the cons. Yes I like to feel the wind in the hair when I can actually feel it under the vice-like helmet. Yes I like getting to places faster through narrow alleys and empty one-way streets. And I definitely like the fact my thighs no longer feel like jelly, but rather a well set blancmange. But, and nobody told me this, there are a hell of a lot of cons.
1) The amount of gear you actually need. Naively I thought a lock and helmet were enough to get me started. My brain was secure in a Styrofoam shell and I had a way to keep my bike attached to a metal pole or bend. I was wrong. The more I cycled, the more I required.
i. Wet gear
ii. Many, many lights
iii. High-viz gear
iv. Layers of warm clothing
v. Gloves that feel and move like steel
vi. A basket so I don’t end up like Quasimodo
vii. Bike clips
viii. A bike pump
ix. A puncture kit – which I don’t own yet, but is on my list
x. There’s more, I just haven’t come across them yet…
2) The weather. It’s evil. It’s as if it waits for you to leave the house/work to pelt down with rain, unleash a wind that belongs to an apocalypse or plummet to a temperature that makes your teeth freeze.
3) Taxi drivers are also evil. So used to driving, they actually seem to have forgotten anyone else is on the road. I think they are a new breed of zombie that happens to have a steering wheel in their hand rather than an iron bar or machete. Bike lanes means nothing to them. Well actually they mean this is their space too. I can’t count the number of times I have had to swerve so as not to take off a wing mirror along with making myself the size of a flat screen television so I can squeeze through a ‘gap’.
4) Buses are in the same league as taxis. Cycle lanes are usually in bus lanes so there is some excuse, but they are also zombies with a steering wheel, albeit at a higher level. They are zombies in tanks really. They always make me nervous when they hover behind. You know they are really wishing they could push you onto the pavement.
5) Other cyclists. What’s the deal here? Are we all not in this together? There is a lot of cycle rage. People whizzing past you as if their life depended on it. Are there a lot of fires put out by a covert cycling group of firemen/women that I don’t know about? A lot of them don’t wear helmets, speed through red lights, hover behind you so your wheels start to vibrate, are invisible in the dark. It is not a race people, we will all get there in the end.
6) Cycle lanes. Sometimes they’re there, other times they are not. For some reason the ones where I live seem to have a strange red coating that resembles mouldy patches, so cycling over it is like being on a rollercoaster.
7) Glass. For some reason it’s all over the place. In the day you can avoid it as it glistens in warning, but at night it is impossible to see. The tiny shards are the worst as you can feel them going into the rubber and are just waiting for the hiss.
8) Battery controlled devices. By this I mean lights. I have bought a few of them, gone to the trouble of buying batteries and getting them road worthy only to have them work for one night and then die. Or just give off a jaundiced glow that a firefly could outshine. Rubbish.
9) Sweat & redness. Now I knew that I was kind of unfit. I walk everywhere but avoid the gym as if it has cholera so anything cardiovascular was going to be a shock to my system. I did however underestimate how unfit. At the start I would turn up at work red, not a nice flushed shade, but tomato red as if I had been in Willy Wonka’s factory and chewed on tomato flavoured gum. This was accompanied by dampness, clothes that stuck to my back and required peeling off. Ugh…
10) Thieves. When I first embarked on this cycling endeavour I splashed out and bought a new bike. It was white, vintage and foldable and looked so pretty I could have eaten it. When I cycled I felt feminine, regal even. I had it for three weeks. I made the mistake of buying a simple lock which on my return was coiled in on itself on the ground like a turd. The bike was gone. That fact still annoys me and I envisage a day where someone will be cycling it down the street only to have a crazy woman bolting after them. Now I am stuck with a dull and crap mountain bike that I got for free as I’m still not ready to re-commit. See you thieves, the scars you leave?
As spring approaches I hope a lot of these teething problems will disappear. Soon I will be just another one of those cyclists that whizzes by those starting out that speeds through red lights in the hope of shaving off those all so precious minutes.