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
But the falls are not the worst, and the scars, I hope, will fade. After much rumination, I can blame only myself. The daily trauma of dealing with bulldozer buses, beeping taxis and confused cars (are you turning left or aren’t you?) is what is most ageing.
Signalling to switch lanes as three streams of cars come behind you, while also maintaining your grip, is a skill I cannot manage without sweating. Cars on the cycle track make my heart go faster. No cycle track (too common) and my stomach drops. Jay-walking pedestrians affect the palms of my hands. Cars jerking out of side-streets give me instant wrinkles.
Parked car-doors opening suddenly into the cycle lane are the stuff of nightmares. They are also the stuff of street legend among the two-wheeled community; everyone has a fall story, but those who’ve been struck by a parked car-door receive the most amount of horrified awe. I don’t think I’d ever get back on the saddle. Mirrors, drivers, mirrors!
Roll on the good times
Still, there are good times, too. Cycling on cobble-stones through Trinity College Dublin with the cherry blossoms in bloom, while fancying myself as Sylvia Plath at Cambridge, is pure pleasure. There is something literary about a bike, I convince myself, as I forgo the taxi rank.
Then there is cycling in convoy with friends after dark on deserted, lamp-lit streets, with Dublin a playground as the city sleeps. Or jacketless, in the freak June sunshine, chasing the trees down the river Liffey, dipping the nose of the bike in and out under their shadows. While being carried along by the breeze and sun, you can’t help but look at the neighbouring car-passengers struggling with sticky seatbelts or those on foot, plodding slowly towards Phoenix Park, and feel smug.
I am free, free as a bird, on a bike. No timetables or bus-routes, no petrol required, no distance within the city too far. On these days, there’s no other way to traverse the town or country.
But then, inevitably, the weather turns, and you’re back to being assaulted by the elements, the wind giving the appearance that you are cycling on a treadmill, so little distance are you covering.
And then the heavens open and you have to get off the bike, whimpering “I’m a terrible cyclist; please, please will someone give me a lift?” to those who pass unaware, ensconced in their motorised bubbles, with radios on.