When I was thirteen, I fell off my bike. I came careering down the hill into my village – there are a whole lot of hills in rural Wales! – and noticed a car parked at the bottom. Being a panicky kid, I tried to swerve and brake at the same time to avoid it. Predictably, the bike tipped over, pinning me underneath it.
Though no serious damage was done, I had some nasty cuts down my left side, and my elbow is still scarred even now. I think the experience was more traumatic than painful. Afterwards, my bike lay unused in a shed for many years.
Last autumn, I began to get bored. I love to explore new places, but I’d seen virtually everywhere within walking distance in my city. I had more energy than I knew what to do with, and wanted to take up a more demanding form of exercise. On top of that, I was trying to save money and fed up of paying bus and train fares. I came to an obvious conclusion – I needed to start cycling.
So it was that my poor old bike was finally dragged out of its shed; my dad kindly fixed it up and taught me some basic maintenance. I began nervously pootling up and down local cycle paths, but felt I was a long way from using cycling as a method of transport. For one thing, it was much harder work than it looked! I rapidly discovered I wasn’t in very good shape, and began to get disheartened.
Last week, I heard about a march against Donald Trump in Bristol. I really wanted to go, but had spent a lot on bus tickets to visit a friend a couple of days earlier. Since I live about fifteen miles from Bristol, I considered cycling instead – there’s even a cycle path which goes nearly the whole way there.
However, I was intimidated by the thought of having to get there and back in one day, especially since I’d be doing a march in between! I’d never cycled more than fourteen miles in a day before. I tried to convince myself it would be too rainy to cycle, but the opposite was true – it was the sunniest day in weeks.
Now bereft of excuses, I got on my bike and set out. It was a lovely day, and I began to quite enjoy myself. The path was lovely and flat, and very scenic in places. I took a few breaks to drink water and rest.
When I was almost at Bristol (by which point I was getting tired) I had some bike issues – I tried to change gear and my bike began making a horrible noise. I hastily changed back again, at which point the noise got even worse! I stopped to look at the bike and noticed the chain was in the wrong place.
Since I was almost at Bristol, I stayed in the better-sounding gear until I got there. This may not have been the best decision, but it was hard to think straight at that point!
On arriving, I discovered that my phone – which I’d charged the evening before and kept switched off all night – was somehow almost dead. This worried me, since I’d been having bike trouble and didn’t want to end up with no means of summoning help. I switched it off to preserve the remaining battery for emergencies.
According to Google Maps, the journey should’ve taken an hour and twenty minutes. In reality, it took over two hours, but I’m OK with that since I’m a new cyclist with a slightly dodgy old bike. Factoring in the rest breaks I took, I really don’t think I did so badly.
By that point, I was starving and just had time to scoff some pasta before the march began. Read about my experience of the march here.
I would ideally have taken some time to rest before cycling home, but I needed to get back before dark. Now in a better frame of mind, I turned my bike upside down and moved the chain back to where it ought to be. Luckily, it stayed there and the problem seemed to be solved.
The cycle home was a lot tougher, since I was sore and tired. I had to stop far more frequently, and kept stressing over the prospect of night falling before I made it home. When the sun began to go down, I became quite emotional and felt like I needed a good cry!
As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, at one point a motorbike roared past before swerving and tipping over right in front of me. Since I was on a cycle path, it was illegal for motorbikes to be on it in the first place.
When the driver got up – thankfully unscathed – he turned out to be a young boy. I felt pretty irate towards whoever gave him the bike – it was so dangerous, and someone could easily have been hurt or killed.
Despite everything, I made it back to my city just as it was getting dark. I had to push the bike for most of the last mile, as my knees and quads were really hurting.
I felt a lot better once I got home and had a rest, along with dinner and a hot shower. Though it was a tough experience, I never once regretted it, even on the journey back. I’m proud of myself for taking on the challenge despite being really nervous. The £4.50 I saved is an added bonus!
As a side note, I woke up the next morning with the soreness in my legs almost completely gone. Since I’m not in amazing shape, the only thing I can think to credit for this is my diet; I’m very conscious of what I eat and stick to whole plant foods wherever possible.
I’ll definitely be using my bike to get around more often in future. I feel a lot more confident now I know I can do it, though I think I’ll wait till the days are longer and I’m in better shape before attempting another trip to Bristol.
I’d love to hear your cycling experiences! Feel free to comment below.