Tag Archive | cycling

The joys of cycling

It used to be very much a cycling life for me, and I thought I’d write a blog post about it because of my protagonist in The Dream.

My old bike

The very bike.

I wrote about a character who hated cars and cycled everywhere, and I did so because that used to be me. When I first started work I would walk – it was only about fifteen minutes away – but two years later I bought a bike, and from then on we were inseparable. I loved that bike. I rode it to work every day for fifteen years. Eventually it became so worn out that my dad couldn’t repair it any more and I was forced to buy a new one, but it was never the same. The new one was a mountain bike; it was too big, and it had an uncomfortable seat and handlebars. The cycle to work – by then forty minutes each way – became more of a chore than a pleasure.

The great things about cycling are seeing nature close at hand, being in the fresh air, keeping fit (although that didn’t actually cross my mind much at the time) and just generally feeling free. The less than great things are getting soaked in the rain, fear of falling off in black ice or snow, getting chilly on the iciest of days, being blasted on windy days, having to walk for miles if you have a puncture, and being stuck if ill or injured. As it was, I tended to cycle to work even if I were ill or injured. Many a time I puffed along when my asthma was bad, or strained through the miles when I had a fever. Once I injured a ligament in my arm but didn’t get it looked at even though it was very painful; I couldn’t ride my bike if my arm was in plaster, and I had no alternative means of transport. Another time I fell off my bike and gashed my elbow and then cycled to the hospital to get it patched up.

So when I decided that Ollie in The Dream should be a keen cyclist, it was based on my own experience. Not only that, but a friend of mine who is now almost forty has travelled exactly the same path. Only now has she finally bought a car after years of cycling to work. This might sound strange to American readers, but it’s not so uncommon here in the UK. Like my friend I eventually succumbed to the lure of the car, but I will never come to love cars the way I loved that bike.

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Time to dust off that bike!

When I created my heroine for The Dream I based a small part of her on my own experiences at the same age, and the biggest one of those was being anti-car and a keen cyclist. Not a cyclist as in a member of a cycling club, but rather someone who cycles to work every day in all weathers, as I did for twenty-five years. It wasn’t all fun, least of all getting drenched on the way to work and having to sit in soaking wet clothes for hours. On the other hand, I loved those daily cycle rides, and I also, more occasionally, went on cycle rides for leisure.

Cars were anathema to me back then, and I even went so far as to write stories in which they were uninvented. Only one man noticed the changes as roads disappeared and became tracks, suburban homes regained their front gardens and trams, trains and of course bikes became the only forms of transport anyone (except the protagonist) could ever remember.

Despite still holding these views in a diluted form, I finally accepted the inevitable and got my first car in 2000. My bike was never used for work again as I moved too far away to commute there other than by car. I became almost immediately a lot poorer and substantially fatter!

While writing The Dream, I’ve been taking vicarious cycle rides on the Otago Rail Trail and on various roads in New Zealand and yet my own bike sits dusty and forlorn and with its tyres going flat. I’ve never lost that love of cycling but I rarely indulge it. There are so many things that make cycling more fun than driving, especially seeing the wildlife in the hedgerows, hearing the birds and smelling the flowers.

As spring approaches, I’ve decided it’s definitely time to dust off my bike and get out there!