We have been cycling to work twice a week for a month now and I have to admit, I’m enjoying it. I am getting stronger, faster and more confident. Don’t get me wrong, I am still wobbling, still over zealously wearing my brakes out and if there is a large stone in the path, then inevitably I will ride towards it like a rabbit in the headlights. However the tears of pain have passed, the dread of the uphill ride home is waning and the time it takes us compared to the first day is worthy of an Olympian medal. Maybe.
The scenery along the route keeps me interested. The fields are gorgeous, the expanse of sky is ever changing (this picture reminds me of The Simpsons) and the wooded paths are becoming fun as my confidence grows. I fully understand that this is the not the pace that the other half is accustomed to, but whilst I am contorting my face to take down lungful’s of air, I always love to watch the other half up ahead effortlessly doing wheelies or stunt jumps, or the goal I aspire to – riding with no hands. One day.
However there was one comedy moment which summed up my rudimentary biking skills. We often pass other mountain bikers because it’s a popular spot on our way home – all of them men. So I usually get some impressed nods and greetings when we pass them because it appears to be a rare sight to see a girl out on the bikes.
The other half thinks I look the part with what I wear (apart from maybe the BMX helmet – likened by a colleague to a world war 2 fighter pilots, which quite frankly sounds pretty cool, but the comment was not made to make me feel better about it), so for a glorious instant I nod back and side smile as though, I am in fact, one of them. I bury the fraudulent feeling of guilt by peddling a little harder, convincing myself that I have the potential to be a true mountain biker.
However, on this particular day, my first experience of combined wind and rain on the uphill ride home, I was utterly exhausted after battling the elements and as we approached the last leg of the journey, up ahead there are a group of maybe ten blokey mountain bikers, all standing round looking cool discussing their route, so I quickly regulated my erratic breathing – nobody wants to see that.
Their professional and experienced bikes littered the path, blocking my safe passage home. As the realisation hits that the only way past them is a detour right through the middle of them resulting in a small drop, I try to hide my panic and calmly convince myself to go for it. I watch the other half up ahead take the jump and look casually too cool for school, which quick glances to the lads standing round, tells me it was received well.
However as I approach my heart rapidly sinks as I realise I don’t have the strength or the bottle for it, so whilst avoiding eye contact with EVERYONE, I slam my brakes on which squeal like I have attacked a small child, attracting more attention and then do the unthinkable. I actually get off my bike and walk it down the small mound. Pathetic. I didn’t bother looking back to see if I had received the same appreciation as the other half. And then it was uphill again, so no quick escape from the embarrassment. Luckily for me, they couldn’t see my face as I quickly slid back into erratic panting mode.