If you want to ride a bike, the first thing you must do is remember that bikes exist.
During the latter part of 2018 I was having a Very Deep Think about something active that I could do to try and improve my mental health, which had been on a bit of a decline at the time. Having read that it can really help, I tried running. As in, I bought some neat exercise clothes, and went on one run. And then gave up.
The thing you need to know about me and exercise is that I have a bit of a creaky body to begin with. As a baby I was in hospital having traction for six weeks, because my legs decided they didn’t want to be joined to my hips anymore *shudders*.
These days, I walk almost everywhere, but often my legs get tired or tight very quickly and I end up walking in a sort of limp to alleiviate some of the pain. This isn’t great when I’m running late either, because then I power walk and everything gets much worse. So, running…not really for me.
My main form of exercise is swimming. Okay, so I only go for an hour on Sunday, and it’s less doing lengths and more general bewilderment*. My swim style of choice is the doggy paddle, and I get a lot of joy from swimming about avoiding splashy people. The best thing about swimming though is the weightlessness of being in the water, and the fact that it doesn’t hurt my legs.
So anyway, back to when I was considering a form of exercise, having ruled out running. I suddenly remembered that bikes exist. This was a revelation! A quick internet search provided me with all the information I could need to convince me that cycling is an excellent form of exercise, that wouldn’t necessarily strain my legs as much as running. Plus, it uses plenty of muscles all at once. And cycling is a form of transport, so maybe I wouldn’t have to powerwalk to my freelance jobs all the time.
The funny thing was, we have a bike in our back room. It’s my mum’s bike, and I see it every single day of my life. Yet, just because something is there in front of us, it doesn’t mean we always see it. My brain just skimmed over the bike’s existence, in an ‘it’s just there, that’s where it lives’ kind of way. As if it wasn’t a fully functioning mode of transport and source of exercise. So when I had my bike revelation, I wasted no time in pumping the tyres up and taking it out for a spin, as it were.
At this point, another note about my health. I have Vertigo. And it doesn’t take a genius to realise that Vertigo + Bike = falling off bike. But sometimes once I get an idea in my head I have to see it through. I rode all the way to Attenborough Nature Reserve and back, and only fell off twice. The problem was that I’m small and the bike is too big. So it meant I lost my balance easier, as well as the extra disadvantage of having the vertigo.
So I left the bike idea for a while, and waited for the vertigo to subside. Except I still have it. It’s not as intense as it was last year, but it’s still there. However, it’s just a case of finding the right kind of bike. So off I popped to Halfords…
I went looking for a smaller frame, or something that would make me feel safer getting on and off it. I had a good look around the different styles, and then it clicked. Step-through. I found a beautiful Apollo bike in a step-through style, which is exactly what I was looking for. I took a photo of it, and left with that bike in mind as The One.
From that moment, I’ve been falling further and further in love with the bike. I’ve been looking at the photo when I wake up, and before I go to sleep. I’ve been watching other cyclists, and imagining being one of them. I’ve been planning journeys. I’ve also been anxious that the bike will disappear from the face of the Earth if I don’t order it quick. But I’ve had to play the waiting game, waiting for my week off work to arrive, to give me the time and mental space to be able to get the bike and become familiar with riding it.
At the time of writing (Friday 29th March) I ordered the bike yesterday, and am picking it up next Thursday. I couldn’t be more excited. I’m finally going to have my own bike as an adult. One that I have put a lot of thought into, chosen, worked hard to afford, and bought. This will be my biggest purchase since starting my new job, and it feels really good for me to see this through, and begin a new adventure in cycling.
Thanks to Jade of the recent past, who remembered that bikes exist, and that having one makes all the sense in the world. Here’s to (hopefully) improving my physical and mental health all in one.
*The term ‘general bewilderment’ when applied to swimming is taken from a brilliant Cath Tate card, which I laugh at every week when I see it in Oxfam.