The cycle path to recovery

Friday 13 September 2013

Weather: Bright and sunny
Mood: 7/10

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Friday the thirteenth! Just realised. Is this really a good day to go cycling? Possibly not, but it’s also the day before I see my son and with help from family and friends, I have scrimped, saved and gone without things to buy him a new (albeit secondhand) bicycle.

It’s nice. A credit to a man called Kenny who owned it. A shiny silver Revolution bike from the Edinburgh Cycle Co-op, bought at considerable expense by Kenny and then sold for a song due to lack of use. Let’s face it, Sheffield is a hilly city. Reputed to have been built on seven hills (same as Rome), historical boundary changes mean that there are now significantly more. Some say eight, some say nine, but either way enough to deter the average citizen from trying to cycle up them.

Kenny’s loss was my gain, and the shiny bicycle is now parked in my kitchen wearing a Happy Birthday sign. I’m all excited. My son is thirteen and a happy, gentle soul. His ability to understand and show compassion is way beyond his years. Standing at a fraction under six feet tall, he towers above almost everyone in the family, except me. We got a healthy helping of the tall gene it would seem. Everyone else got double helpings of short leg syndrome.

At a glance, he might easily pass for an eighteen year old, but a slightly longer look at his gentle, smiling face would reveal his true age.

I’m very excited about tomorrow. It isn’t his birthday for a couple of weeks, but my home is way too small to be able to hide it from him when he visits, so tomorrow is his unofficial birthday. I know he’ll like it. For a start, the bicycle is alloy, and lighter than his current cycle by an order of magnitude. Furthermore, his new bicycle has good quality wheels, tyres, brakes and gears. And it looks quite cool. Vitally important when you’re thirteen.

A last-minute thought makes me realise that the first thing he will want to do is ride it. Mild panic as i haven’t thought of a suitable shake-down route.

Twenty minutes later and I’m in my leggings for a quick ‘get my legs going’ cycle around the block on my trusty 1999 model GT bicycle that looks much more ragged than it really is. Living in high-density housing, a shiny new bicycle attracts way too much attention for my liking. My slightly rusty winged chariot attracts no attention whatsoever. Not even a glance. Perfect.

Four miles later, I’m once again stood at side of the trail repairing a puncture. A pinch puncture stemming from a combination of worn out old wheels and inner tubes that are slightly too small. One of the perils of low budget cycling.

I’ve always liked cycling, but a series of stolen bikes tested my resolve a little. Having your bike stolen isn’t a nice experience.

Despite this, I have once again taken to the saddle, to cycle myself happy after reading an excellent article in the Independent about The Cycle Path to happiness written by feature writer Simon Usborne. He wrote about scientists confirming what most cyclists instinctively know – that riding a bike has extraordinary effects on our brain chemistry and this got me thinking. I had already tried walking as both a coping strategy and as a diversionary tactic with some, albeit limited success, so I decided to give it a go.

It works. For me anyway. Anyone who has suffered from mental ill-health, in whatever guise, knows that some days you can (do things) and some days you can’t. This hasn’t changed, but I’ve seen a reasonably healthy change from the amount ‘can’t days’ to ‘can days’.

Cycling is helping me to find a way forward, as well as making the weight literally fly off. And, like most things, the more you do the easier it gets. Whether I’m floating downhill through the lanes of the local nature reserve, or looking very distressed as I chug my way back up the hill, the result is always the same. I feel better than I did before I cycled.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Excitement has been an infrequent visitor to my door recently, but I’m glad it called today. I like it!

Roll on tomorrow…

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