Tuesday 9 November 2010

I want to ride my bicycle

A few days into my first term at Cambridge, I realised that coming here without a bike was a BIG MISTAKE. Pretty much everyone here has one, and considering that my college isn’t exactly the most central, my plan to walk everywhere soon fell apart.

A somewhat sweet-talking phone call to my mother later, and I had managed to cajole her into driving my bike all the way up to Cambridge (which, from the south-west of England, is no mean feat). Oh mummy dearest, how I love you.

However, there was a flaw in my plan: I hadn’t actually ridden my bike since long before the throes of teenage sloth had set in, and neither myself nor my bike were in a fit state to take to the road.

Regrettably, his realisation was the result of a number of unfortunate incidents. Attempting to balance overloaded Sainsbury’s bags on my handlebars as I struggled uphill, the wind blowing leaves and all sorts of other debris in my face, was an utterly futile exercise. I eventually gave up and, red-faced with exhaustion, pushed my bike back to college.

The immense physical exertion of my early morning cycling excursions to the lecture block also seemed to highlight my sheer lack of fitness, until I realised that my tyres were utterly worn out and needed replacing. (Not that that meant I was actually physically fit to ride a bicycle – you must be joking.)

Tyres fixed, I now needed a basket to carry the massive load of books to and from lectures. I soon realised that there are definite categories of cyclist – there are the preppy (*cough*wealthy*cough*) types who serenely glide along on their Pashleys, their Jack Wills hoodies safely stowed away in wicker baskets. Then you’ve got the Mathmos/Natscis/Engineers who have gazillion-speed gear functions and all sorts of other contraptions that power them along at breakneck speeds. And then there those others of us, who, like me, strap their heads into ridiculously uncool helmets and cling to the handlebars for dear life while we try to manoeuvre the maze of traffic lights and roundabouts along the way.

And there are all sorts of other things to consider as well. Wardrobe considerations are absolutely essential if the embarrassment of cycling in a skirt and heels is to be avoided. Ungloved hands are liable to freeze to handlebars on cold days. And if you don’t have a lock, then woe betide you.

I think (dare I say it) that I might finally be getting the hang of this cycling business. However, I don’t pretend to be one of the elite few who elegantly glide along looking completely calm and collected. I think I’m destined to forever be the one desperately pedalling to keep up with the rest of the crowd. Nevertheless, we can but admire those who manage to look a little more poised on their journeys:

All the pictures are from Cycle Chic, a blog full of beautiful people riding beautiful bicycles. Aww.

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