Folks, I cycle.
When I was doing my IGCSEs at sixteen, as a homeschooled student, my mother told me if I got all As and A*s I would get a laptop. That was my motivation. I wanted a laptop. Who didn’t?
I did really well, thanks to the tuition my mother paid for. I got four A*s and four As. Wasn’t I proud of myself.
“Right,” said my mother, “what laptop would you like?”
“I don’t want a laptop,” I told her, “I want a bike”
My first bike was orange. A gleaming, metallic orange. I loved it. For a year and a half I went everywhere on my bike. Maybe I got a little careless with locking it up. I used to use a flimsy lock that was a wire covered in plastic; very easy to cut through.
One day I tied my bike to a small beech tree outside my sixth form college. I had a long day that day, so when I came out at 4pm and I saw the tree all bare and forlorn in the December twilight, I didn’t believe it at first.
I walked all around the college thinking maybe I parked it somewhere else.
It was stolen.
I was miserable. And angry. And resentful. I thought of writing a stern and rude notice to whoever stole my precious bike but then I realised that wouldn’t help, because why would they care? Arseholes, basically.
The kind part of me reckoned that they might have needed it to feed their babies.
The evil part of me snorted and said, “Feed their drug habit, more like.”
Both possibilities are plausible.
However my mother took pity on my, and she, bless her soul, got me a new one. It was originally £400 but the woman who owned it sold it to us for £12o, which wasn’t bad considering it was brand new and she’d only been out on it once or twice.
This was back in 2012.
I still have that bike. I used to use it daily. I kid you not, every single day to school and back, to town, to the shops, to my friends’ houses, to aerobics, to the swimming pool, to the gym. I could cycle with no hands, my abs were tight, my thighs were powerful.
Even when I started university and had to travel three hours daily, I still managed to cycle on the days when I had one lecture, and definitely every weekend.
When I married my husband and moved away, I couldn’t take my bike with me, so for a whole year she went almost untouched.
Until very recently, when I have begun to go out daily, through the villages outside the city. Every day for two weeks, now.
I cycle to get rid of my angst and anger. I cycle my fears away. I cycle my feelings of loss and irritability and insecurity away. I cycle up hills to feel the wind rushing through my entire being on the way down.
As each day goes by, I can feel my muscles waking up and remembering what they used to do, getting stronger and more supple by the minute. Hills I used to struggle up have become easy to me, and soaring down is still as pleasurable.
I am a cyclist. I wear a helmet, I annoy drivers behind me who think I am too slow, I stick my arm out to signal turnings. Sometimes I wear a fluorescent jacket, the lights on my bike flashing in the twilight to warn people not to run over me.
I clutch my handlebars and sing loudly as I pedal along, all the songs I can think of and some made up ones. Sometimes people smile, but mostly they glare.
Sometimes I almost get run over by careless drivers. There are a lot of them in Leicester. In some areas, people are very rude and don’t know much about cyclists on the roads. They beep at me as though I am not supposed to be there, when in reality I am, and it’s illegal to cycle on the pavement, as an irate policeman once told me.
I don’t care, though, that drivers beep. They can beep away, silly rogues.
I will pedal along, signal away, swoosh and sail everywhere.
I love it.