When I started this site way back in 2015 I was very much obsessed with cycling. It was everything I did, thought about and wanted to do. It got me through some tough times and helped to push some of life’s challenges into the background. However, in 2017-18 things started getting really weird and the time I had to cycle, along with the inclination to actually get out and do it started to wane.
Cut to 2020 and I was getting back to my usual self, slowly, but then the pandemic happened and I began spending 40 hours a week in one room. My last ride was in August 2020. A combination of working from home and a lack of places to go meant that I mostly just walked if I wanted to go somewhere.
I had this whole article planned out where I’d talk about my brain again, but I’ve done enough of that for one decade. Back in 2020 I talked about New Year’s Resolutions and this is essentially a follow-up to that.
Back then I had hoped to have started something that would become a habit. However, I’ve continued to work from home most of the time and I leave the village occasionally to run errands. I hadn’t been out on my bike for nearly two years, until 29th May…2022.
The reasons are many and varied. I was spending a lot of time on Twitter, seeing all the videos filling up ‘cycling twitter’ of people having a bad time on the road. Walking just seemed less stressful and I kept making excuses for why I couldn’t find an hour to get some kilometres into these legs.
The longer it went on, the harder it became. I lost my nerve, as well as my fitness. I assumed that the person who got on the bike in 2022 wouldn’t be the same person who put it aside two years ago.
Sunday evening, the 29th May, I took a deep breath, pumped my tires back up and just got on with it. As it turns out, the only thing that has really changed is that I’m not as fit as I used to be (understatement of the year), but by the time I got to the end of my street everything came flooding back. The muscle memory is still there, even if the muscle tone is not.
I’ve had many a false dawn already, so I’m not going to be so bold as to say this time is different, but it feels good to be out there again. I have a bit more of a spring in my step after each ride, I’m a little more calm and the few times I’ve been out since Sunday have been great.
I’ve been doing a local loop near where I live, roughly 10km, mostly flat but with one fairly stiff hill. The first time around I had to stop halfway up it, but third time was the charm and I managed to get up in one go. It was a nice feeling, but it still feels like a long way back from where I was.
I’m going to keep going out in the evenings when it is quiet and slowly build up my fitness. After that, I’ll start challenging myself again. Each time I go out it gets a little easier, my confidence improves a little and I don’t think it’ll be too long before it’ll feel like I’ve never been away.
- Sunday evenings –the roads are quiet, the shops are shut. If you are nervous about getting out there for the first time, or the first time in a while, Sunday evening is a pretty good time to go.
- Stick to familiar roads –you don’t want to add ‘getting lost’ to the list of reasons to talk yourself out of it.
- Some things are difficult to forget –riding a bike is one of them. If you learned to ride a bicycle as a kid, you’ll still be able to do it as an adult (just not on the same bicycle, obviously). The same applies for riding with clipless pedals –somehow the memories of going timberrr... at the traffic lights stays with you.
- If you are riding on the road, stay out of the gutter. There’s a smooth groove worn into most roads by car tires and the nearside (kerb side) groove is not a bad line to follow. It’ll be safely outside manhole territory. It also deters drivers from squeezing past you in the same lane.
- Ride at a pace that is comfortable for the ‘you of today‘, not the ‘you from a few years ago‘. It’s ok to go a bit slower until you find your legs again. What is important is that you enjoy it.
- Take a snack and some water –you’ll be surprised how quickly you can use up your glycogen reserves. It’s also easy to fall out of the habit of taking on water regularly. But above all, have fun.
It’s good to have a plan for times like this. I’m going to try to get out there every other day, as well as evenings after work. It’s not as scary to me now and I think I’ve broken the spell it had over me. My main priority is to start building my legs and lungs back up.
Since I’ve been away, the Highway Code has changed. It’s still early days for that, but so far I have noticed that drivers are passing a little further out than they used to. Also, the council has expanded the 20mph zones around the city. The two things combined mean that things, at least to me, feel safer than they did back in 2020. It should make it a little easier to stick with it.
I need to take the GoPro into town to try out the new lanes and signals that the council has been putting in. So much to catch up on.
I’ve also noticed that the Cardiff By Bike Strava club has ballooned to over 900 users since I’ve been away. I really need to invest more time into that.