This Christmas was the usual gluttony and excess, and on January first I went off birding, not realising quite how incapable I had become. 12 miles should not have been so hard. This is pathetic I decided, and resolved there and then to do something about it. This involved less stuffing my face, zero booze (for as long as I can bear it), and the dreaded exercise. On January the second and third I put in another few miles despite the intense pain, figuring that I ought to just man up and walking doesn't count as exercise, and then today, with the shins still smarting and the toe wincing, hopped on the bike. I have not cycled anywhere for a long time, and it was surprisingly refreshing.
There are a number of things I like about it, there are a number of things I don't like about it. Let's start with those. Just because.
- Oh my God how much do my buttocks hurt? I know from prior experience that this will lessen over time and eventually disappear altogether, but I also know quite how awful the second ride is. Today this came only eight hours after the first, but boy did I know all about it. I am dreading tomorrow morning
- The commute home. Mornings are fine really. It is light, you are fresh, the promise of gainful toil awaits. In the evening the story is entirely different. It is dark, you are tired from mental strain, you wish to be home, and your buttocks hurt like hell. That DLR seat never looked so good.
- Your colleagues get to see you dress up to leave...
- It is actually faster than public transport! No word of a lie, even with a pudgy birder doing the pedalling. 35 minutes there, 37 minutes back. Six miles each way and I've shaved 20 minutes off my daily commute.
- No public transport crush. No other peoples' armpits.No waiting. No strikes!
- I can have a shower when I get to work, and emerge onto the office floor looking and smelling radiant, as opposed to the Central Line turning me into a bedraggled mess.
- Better still, when I get home I can have a shower again, and the key benefit of this is that I will change into normal clothes. Stupid though it sounds, not spending the evening in work clothes could dramatically change my outlook on life.
- It is free!! OK, so I have just spent the equivalent of a month's travel pass on getting my bike serviced (new brakes, new cables) by this will soon pay off. I just cashed in half an annual tube ticket and the princely sum of £500 is soon going to land in my grubby little paws. I am going to spend it all on booze in February.
- And then of course there is the pure satisfaction of just doing it. I've not yet experience the endorphin rush or whatever it is called, but even though I am knackered I have to say I feel a little bit perky. Strange but there you go.
I'm very interested to know how soon I will notice a difference from this minor lifestyle change. Presumably my body will do its utmost to preserve those carefully squirreled fat-reserves, so I will need to stick at it for a while. What I will be able to notice, instantly, are the miles I eat up and how I eat them up. None of this silly little bike computer thing with a doofer on the wheel, no that is severely outdated technology. These days you just use your phone, assuming you have not dropped it. I have been pointed in the direction of something called Strava. You touch a button to say you are leaving, you touch again when you get there. Like Oyster but free. This amazing app then records your time over individual segments of your journey, so you can see if you are getting faster. Or not as the case may be. It also shows you the times of those segments achieved by other users of the app......ah. So, on the nice smooth ride away from my house and through the middle of Wanstead Flats I am currently the ......509th quickest person to do it. Somebody called Buster did in two minutes what took me three and a half. But I know why. On that stretch of road there are several sets of traffic lights, and I bet you that Buster stopped for NONE OF THEM. As a brand new cyclist (kind of) I am very good and stop for all of them, however after just 12 miles I can already begin to see why so many cyclists completely ignore them. I hope to remain good, but the lure of the stat could see the odd transgression!