It is exactly two years ago that I bought my bike. The one I’d had before that had been stolen from our back garden, but this one is a testament to the 7th July bombings London. It was after that rather bizarre day I resolved to buy myself a bike so that I could avoid the crush of tube life in the mornings.
Well, the reason was that I had been scared off somewhat by the tube trains. It was only a matter of time before terrorists would target London’s tube network. In fact, I’m not entirely certain why they’d never done it successfully before then.
Many people dismissed my sudden purchase. Amid the cries of “you’re not paying for that with a credit card, are you?” there were a multitude of raised eyebrows and wry smiles. “So, you’re going to cycle all the way to White City from South East London, are you? What, so that you can avoid being blown up by a bomb?”
They were right of course. I was replacing one risk with something far greater. While Ken Livingstone and his team spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on promoting a healthier lifestyle in order to reduce the burden on London’s overstretched transport system, those of us who brave the capital’s busy streets have an entirely different experience.
Buses, lorries and white-van drivers are the worst contributors to a feeling of unease on the road, so too London’s black cab drivers who are, for the most part, largely intolerant of cyclists. One cab driver pushed me against his vehicle in a bid to demonstrate to me and all of the other motorists in the queue of stationary traffic around him exactly who was boss.
Regular readers may remember too that a recent cycling trip turned into a bit of an accident as I pedalled my way along Acre Lane near Brixton only to find myself pushed off the road by a driver who’d spectacularly misjudged the amount of space available to him. Over the handlebars I went, my bike falling on top of me. A great deal of soreness ensued – my knees were a picture – although a full recovery was made within a few weeks.
It’s only now – a couple of months after – that I feel able to hit the road again. It’s got nothing to do with the cyclists charging through the Kent countryside on the first leg of the Tour de France. No, the real reason can be found in vanity.
The scales in the bathroom say I’ve put on half a stone (I’m now skirting 12 stone) and I’m convinced my shorts aren’t quite as baggy on my arse as they were a couple of months ago. It’s time to get on my bike and work off some of the calories.
I’m undeterred. The same gruelling bike ride from Lewisham to Clapham Junction and back again for afew weeks should just be enough to raise the heart-rate and burn off all that unwanted fat. I won’t be scared off by that scary spot on Acre Lane. I’ll keep looking behind me as much as I possibly can and I’ll be wearing my cycle helmet the whole time as well.
And yes. I’m a gay man in my 30s. Of course I’m neurotic about my waistline.