I USED to spend half my life on a bike. As a student in London I was rarely off one, cycling around the capital, confidently pedalling alongside streams of buses and taxis.
But since then, apart from the odd holiday hire, I haven’t been back on two wheels.
I don’t even have the excuse of not having a bike anymore — I’m ashamed to admit that my neighbour passed on her old but perfectly decent one about three years ago, yet despite the best intentions, I hadn’t been out on it.
But now, with sporting fever in the air, plus the rocketing price of fuel, I decided to take the bike for an MOT and use it.
On Saturday I tentatively took a ride along the lane outside our house. Since then I’ve gone further afield, cycling a couple of miles to the shops and back.
What an eye opener. Time has moved on, and cycling is seen as the green and pleasant way to go, but cyclists have a raw deal. My daughter came back from Germany raving about their “wide as a car” cycle lanes.
Here, they’re so narrow, a lot of the time you're literally pedalling in the gutter, having to rattle over grates and gulleys. Sometimes your wheels are stuck in a gritty ‘no man’s land’ between the edge of the Tarmaced road and the pavement. It’s a bit like cycling on a tightrope.
And even with cycle lanes, cars don’t give you that much leeway. Some drive so close, it’s as if they resent cyclists having any space allocated at all.
I’m still nervous, so at the moment it feels rather like dicing with death. My so-far brief foray has reinforced my decision not to allow my daughters to ride on main roads.
Bike security isn’t what it used to be either. I had a basic wire lock which I wrapped around lamposts and never had my bike stolen.
Now I’ve been told that won’’t be enough. Now it’s all heavy duty titanium bars with 50-digit lock combinations. The lock I bought is so heavy the bike struggles to support it. Nowadays, if you lock a decent bike to a lampost, someone will take the lampost.
I don’t think my second-hand cycle will attract much attention, but you never know.
Apart from all that I’m enjoying having the wind in my hair — I almost said the the freedom of the road, but you don’t get that outside the Scottish highlands —and getting some exercise into the bargain. I’m not as fit as I was, though, and my legs ache so much you’d think I’d just done the Tour de France.