Tumbles, tantrums and tales of a terrible new cyclist
Our cycling series continues. After six months in the saddle and two falls, the stress of my inadequacy on a bike is giving me grey hairs
Meadhbh McHugh, with her not-so-beloved bicycle in Grand Canal Square, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
‘If I die on my bike,” I told a friend shortly after trading life on four wheels to life on two, “it will be a stress-induced heart attack that does it, not an accident.” Perhaps this was a morbid and over-dramatic conversation to have after only a few days of pedal pushing, but I had already discovered I was, and remain, a terrible cyclist.
After six months in the saddle and two falls, I can confirm the sentiment still stands. The stress of it all is giving me irreversible frown lines and grey hairs. Okay, one hair, singular. It could have been blonde.
Even so, I have to ask myself, is the environment worth it? Do I care about my children’s children? I don’t even have any children. Are the money and time saved by cycling, as well as the supposed health benefits, enough to justify this daily dalliance with danger? The jury is still out; at least until I can afford taxis – now there’s a way to travel.
For the terrible cyclist, there is disaster everywhere. I learned this with fall one: the Luas track. To everyone else, the Luas track is just the Luas track. Lying there, minding its own business, facilitating the shiny, silver tram on its way in and out of the city.
To the terrible cyclist, it is a devil, luring you in, tempting you to cross it, giving no indication that you can’t cycle directly into it without flying off over your handlebars. Some would say this is common sense. I would say this is Lucifer at his most cunning.
Luas Track Incident has left me scarred: physically and mentally. After a week of hobbling and getting too friendly with the Hailo app, I managed to resume my cycling life, but I still shiver when I see a track line, and hold my breath as I cross it, from a perpendicular angle (I’ve learned), lest I be dislodged from my saddle and strewn across the road.
Fall two was an education in taking kerbs, and in how not to hang grocery shopping from handlebars. It was also a lesson in how to recover from a fall with grace, if said incident happens in front of a busy, outdoor-seating coffee shop.
My impulse was to exclaim to a kind stranger who stopped that “I knew there was something wrong with the brakes”; I said it sort of triumphantly, as if it were a pub-quiz question we had previously disputed. He nodded pitifully and I went on my way, cursing the contraption I was now wheeling from ground-level. A bad cyclist always blames her bike.