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Commuting

"Just Like Riding a Bike?"

Posted: 25th January 2010 | Eddie Allen

More: Daily Commuting Tips Archive

It can take a while to kick-start your cycling after a break. Even a break of a few weeks over the Christmas period can be difficult to awaken from as I discovered just the other day. And what a rude awakening from the brumal slumber it was...

With the Christmas period closely followed by the now legendary Big Freeze, I spent a shamefully sedentary four weeks with only one short bike ride somewhere in the middle punctuating the sloth and gluttony. Over this break the pounds crept on, the muscles atrophied and the bike mouldered in the shed. Then came the tipping point - the familiar itch, the restless leg, the bathroom scale registering 88kg. It was time for action. So last week, I vowed to cycle to work come hell or high water.

There's that familiar old idiom, which states that if something is impossible to forget, once learned, it is "just like riding a bike." However, I was the exception that proves the rule, as I wobbled precariously down the road on Monday morning. During the extended 09/10 Christmas break, it appeared that, among many other faculties, I'd lost the ability to balance, to steer and push on each pedal in an orderly fashion. And to do perform three tasks simultaneously was a serious ask. When I did fashion something that approximated cycling and managed to make it, miraculously unscathed, at work, I arrived a sweating, heavy-breathing mess.

I sat at my desk, a quivering mass of self doubt. Had my mind and body forgotten how to ride a bike after a measly four weeks? Surely not? I decided that, before I Ebayed all of my worldly cycling goods, I'd give cycling another chance, and reserve judgement until after my ride home. So I spent a pensive day in the office, wondering where my lifelong cycling skill had gone. Down the back of the sofa perhaps? In the tumble drier coin trap maybe. Perhaps I'd disposed of it amid the Christmas wrapping paper, or perhaps those empty beer bottles in the recycling bin?

The ride home wasn't much better. A day of unquiet reflection on the subject in the office hadn't gone anything for my technique or fitness as I huffed, puffed and wobbled my way back home. That's it, I thought, it's a slow decline in sedentary living for me now. I stowed the bike in the shed, had dinner and went to bed.

However, the next morning dawned bright and clear. The air was still, the sky was blue and the temperature was almost amenable. Were the cycling gods trying to tell me something - had they rustled up some fine weather just for me? I got up, got ready, dragged the bike out of the shed and hit the morning commute with all the zest of a newbie and all the aplomb of an old-stager. I zipped deftly through the traffic, cranked up the steep hill out of the saddle and made it to work in record time. What had happened? Had my brain and cycling muscles rewired themselves overnight? Had the weather and my deep resolve conspired to give me newfound energy? Who knows? All I've learned from the experience is that there's no better cure for the Wintertime Blues than to just get out and ride, no matter how Bambi-like your first steps may be.

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