Its Saturday, it’s raining and I’m feeling a little like a Tory voter with a broken ankle facing a four hour wait in A&E: the words “be careful what you wish for” keep scrolling through my consciousness. I had a bright idea, you see, and unlike most of my bright ideas, this one has actually become reality.
This idea, like so many idle fancies seemed unlikely verging on impossible but unlike a great many others was founded on twin realities. First; my son is a cyclist and a cycling writer. Second; I am an older man.
It was born, the idea not the son, on a sunny Monday morning visit to my GP where I had whiled away some of an extended wait reading a SAGA magazine article about E-Bikes. I’m “target market” for SAGA – both in terms of my age and the fact that I share some of the many conditions their advertisers claim to be able to ameliorate – and the piece was quite well written. So rather than simply scan it and forget it, I read and inwardly digested the content. It spoke to me.
E-bikes, it seems, are more popular on the continent than here. These days they look quite stylish; new technology has given them greater range and there seems to be as many types of E-bike as there are styles of cycling. Most importantly from my perspective, they represent a route back to cycling for people who through age, injury or infirmity wouldn’t otherwise countenance getting back on a bike.
I tick all three of the relevant boxes. I’m nearly 60; my right knee still locks up or gives way depending on its mood despite 40 years having passed since it suffered the trauma of a ligament injury; and the general wear and tear on my body of playing and working in a variety of sports makes the prospect of pushing my increasing bulk up the local hills, at best, unattractive. When I tell you those hills are the Pennines and that we are lucky to live about a quarter of the way up one of the smaller ones you will appreciate why my 1984 road bike only ever leaves the shed when my son visits.
But the fact that the bike is there to be borrowed speaks volumes for my relationship with cycling. I get it. I actually, honestly, really wish I did it. I love watching it on the television. I read about it. And I join in on Twitter when people more erudite and informed than I advocate for it.
And it’s Twitter that made this bright idea – writing about my return to the saddle – far less of a positive prospect than it was in the sunshine of that Monday morning, serving up three very worrying nuggets of cycling related interaction.
The first was close to home and involved a prolific, local bike nut and his partner being nearly mown down by a seriously selfish car driver on a country lane. The two parties met head on and despite being adjacent to a passing place the maniac in the two-ton hunk of metal hurtled on almost brushing our hero into the hedgerow. Far from funny, this very scary incident is all too common according to the many, many cyclists who got involved in the subsequent Twitter storm.
The second was down south and again involved a motorist and a video recorder. This time the driver was in a white van, the camera was on the dashboard of a following car and the cyclist involved wasn’t another near miss statistic. Indeed, the van driver seemed to – and later tacitly admitted that he had – deliberately run the bike off the road, so frustrated was he by the rider adopting the “defensive strategy” of not riding in the gutter so the van man could get to the next pub he was due to refurbish, or drink in, or both.
And the third was Chris Froome getting knocked off his bike on a training ride. Chris Froome! If even he can be a victim of the ignorance, idiocy or simple road illiteracy of a car driver, what chance will I have in a world where the car is king?
In future blogs I will be sharing my experiences of getting back on the road with the help of an e-bike. While I have reservations as mentioned above, I am also excited about the prospect of getting out there once again.