Adventures in Cycling pt. 2: Independence & Exercise

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No. of times fallen off: 1

No. of times not fallen off: Way more than 1.

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I’ve had my bike for a few months now and here are some things that having a bike has given me, and made me more aware of.

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iNDEPENDeNCE

I use my bike to get to my freelance jobs. Before, one of my clients would come and pick me up and take me home in her car, or on some occassions I’d walk (and it would take 45 minutes at least).

But after getting my bike, she said ‘You’re independent now!’ and has also accidentally referred to it as a car. Which, if a car is defined as ‘a mode of transport to get a person from A to B in a way that is faster than walking’ then, yeah, my bike is totally a car.

I can get to that job in 30 minutes. I can get to another in 15. Beeston is now only 10 minutes away, and my sister 20 minutes away. Life isn’t so slow anymore. But the difference between this and having a car is that I’m also getting exercise. And…not polluting the planet etc etc.

Exercise

Last year I put on a lot of weight. Previous to getting my job at the library, I was comfort eating and had generally given up caring about trying to be healthy and active. I just couldn’t fit the excerise into my life, and I had no motivation to do so. Then I got my job, and I thought the extra activity (walking to and from the tram stop, walking up and down stairs, walking the length and breadth of a library with 6 floors) would get me in a better shape. But it didn’t.

The bike has changed that. I started riding it generally, for leisure purposes. Then my uphill freelance job started up again, and I noticed a change. my body felt physically fitter. When I used to run for the tram, it felt like running with a chain tied to my foot, and additional weights sellotaped to both legs. But after the bike, I floated to it.

I started thinking about my physical fitness, and decided to spend birthday money on getting a Fitbit. It was reduced by Β£10, my birthday money was a total of Β£50, so it actually only cost me Β£20. And I rode my bike to Argos to pick it up! You might be thinking…okay, but the bike is the actual thing that’s getting you physically fit. What good can a fancy watch do?

What this watch does is ensure that I get into the habit of daily exercise, thinking about my health, being encouraged to stay fit, and to consider the food I eat. The bike is getting me fit, yes, but the Fitbit pushed me over the hurdle into ‘active lifestyle’. My body has changed physically. My tummy is flatter, I have actual muscles there, as well as my arms and legs. I’ve lost half a stone in a healthy way. As opposed to a way which puts me in hospital.

Road Awareness

Despite what I said earlier about pollution of the planet and cars, I do want to learn to drive at some point. I want to be able to go on daytrips, or take my cat to the vets without having to call on neighbours and family friends*. When I first started riding my bike, I was a bit scared of the roads, so I stuck to bike paths. But then I had to take journeys that would mean having no choice but to go on the roads. I’m a safe rider, and I make sure to consider other people using the road/cycle tracks etc. I have a lot more awareness than I did before, and I feel safe when I’m out there.

It’s given me the confidence that if and when I do take driving lessons, I’ll already have some level of road safety that will help me get used to being in a car. I know the two modes of transport are different in many ways, but I feel good knowing I’m getting a feel for travelling to places in a way that isn’t walking or using public transport**.

Shoutout to the guy who refused to move out of my way, after knowing I was coming up behind him a good 20 seconds before I needed to pass, and then said ‘Get on the road then duck’ after I rang my bell. I would like to inform you that the bridge you were walking over is a dedicated cycle path, indicated by the signs AND the huge painted bicycle symbol.

bike theives

Luckily, my bike hasn’t been stolen, but that’s because I’ve not really given it the chance to be. I left it for 5 minutes outside a post office (and had anxiety the entire time, preparing myself for life post-bike). I left it for 5 minutes outside Argos, and strained my neck checking it through the window every few seconds. I left it for 30-40 minutes in a pub car park, but secured it with TWO locks just to be safe. I left it for 10 or so minutes outside Attenborough Nature Centre, and had no anxiety at all because I figured bike theives aren’t going to chance it there. We’re just here to see the pretty birds, not steal bikes, okay?

But there are regular journeys I could use my bike for but don’t because of the risk of it being stolen. I go to Oxfam twice a week, there are bike racks right outside, but this is along the highroad, in the Bike Stealing Capital of the World***, Beeston. I fear the bike would evaporate into thin air if left. I know this is something I want to overcome. A fellow volunteer uses his bike to get to Oxfam for the same shift as me, and his bike has never been stolen. I just don’t trust it. If there’s one thing I could change about Beeston, I would want bike thieves to simply not exist. But for now, I’ll keep walking the journeys where the end-point for my bike is risky.

where to next?

I already go swimming every Sunday, but I’m thinking of increasing that, and trying a swimming pool which (by taking my bike) is only 10 minutes away from my house. This will also go a long way to continuing my fitness journey.

Buying my bike is one of the best things I ever decided to do, and I’m still enjoying the benefits, and consider myself very lucky to have the physical ability to be able to ride a bike. From living my life so far with bad legs, I think I’m doing pretty well.

*Thanks to Draco, Shelley, Shelley’s Mum, and Mr Wolf for all giving me lifts when I needed to take my cat(s) to the vet. (Names have been changed, but you know who you are).

**Speaking of public transport, if trams allowed bikes on them I’d be able to cycle to the tram stop when going and returning from work. But they don’t, so I can’t. I don’t really know what the point of this footnote was, really.

***This isn’t true, but ask anyone who lives here and they’ll tell you it may as well be. Unless you accidentally ask one of the bike thieves, in which case they’ll deny that bikes even exist then ride away into the sunset on the bike you didn’t even know you owned.

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