When I was somewhat younger and fitter than I am now, I used to cycle the six miles to work each day. It was enjoyable, cheaper and quicker than using the bus except when it was tipping down with rain – then it was just cheaper and quicker. I had a secondhand Viscount Sebring with Reynolds 531 tubing which was a very capable bicycle. The journey into work took around 20 minutes – an average speed of 18mph including stopping for traffic lights and at road junctions. The return journey used to take around 45 minutes – an average of 8mph. Why the descrepancy? It was mainly uphill going home and the traffic was heavier. Whilst I was never a superfit, racing, cyclist I didn’t get passed by many other cyclists in either direction so I was probably above average. I surprised one of my workmates one lunchtime. We went out for a ride together: Him on his BMW motorcycle and me on my Viscount. He clocked me at a steady 25mph along the Finchley road on a slightly rising gradient – Not Tour de France performance but pretty good!
Times moved on – I sold the old Viscount and bought one of those new-fangled Mountain Bike thingies. I bought big as well – a frame that was too large for me. At the time it was a decision based on road conditions – sitting high above the traffic made you more visible and able to see a lot more of what was going on around you. With the increasing traffic levels it was a safety precaution rather than anything else. The bike I bought was a Marin Bear Valley and it was an imposing bit of kit and a very pleasant ride – especially after I replaced the knobbly tyres with ones designed for road/off-road use. Some evenings I would deliberately divert from the road and follow some footpaths on Hampstead Heath (against the byelaws put in by the Corporation of London).
Work moved on too – I left Lords Exchange in the late 1980’s and my next few work places were not bicycle friendly for a mixture of road and parking reasons. So the bike fell into disuse. At one time I was working south of the river and it was just so much more convenient to jump on the tube and get to where I was going.
This year was a hugely successful time for British Cycling with Bradley Wiggins becoming the first Brit to win The Tour de France. Bike shops in the UK are reporting a huge increase in cycles being bought as many new cyclists take to the road in what has been dubbed ‘The Wiggo Effect’. Now, it’s fair to say that I have been trying to get back into cycling from a fitness point of view for the last 5 years. I had the Bear serviced and suspension added to ease the ride for my old bones and I did my best to get back in the habit but it just wasn’t happening. It took me a long time to get to the bottom of the problem – confidence and age. I was no longer fit enough to leap on and off a bike that was a couple of frame sizes too big for me with any sense of confidence. I was always dreading having to put my foot down if there wasn’t a kerb available – I always felt that I was risking falling off.
So 3 weeks ago, with my son about to do a cycle training course at school, I bit the bullet and took my old Bear Valley on its last ride to my local cycle shop – Bike & Run in East Finchley. I got a very sympathetic reception and having ascertained my requirements Tony recommended a Trek 7 series FX of the correct size as a suitable replacement for someone who is trying to get fit again through cycling. I have to say that I am very pleased with my new bike. It handles very nicely and accelerates well. I’m also confident to stop without worrying about falling off! In fact the only issue is that my bum doesn’t enjoy being back on the saddle – so I’ve started wearing padded cycle undershorts for the first time 😉
This post was prompted by Donna’s post The color of running.