I’m a very happy man today – when I got the bike out of the back of the car this morning in preparation for the cycle leg of my commute, I spotted my trusty footpump nestled cosily amongst the pasty wrappers and empty milk cartons. Whilst I wasn’t exactly early, I wasn’t late, either, so I thought… You know… What the heck – let’s check the pressure in the soft rear tyre. Crazy, I know.
It’s been awhile since I cycled regularly, and I never cycled that regularly even back then – if I had to guess how many miles I’d ridden in, say, the last five or seven years, I think it would barely average a couple or three hundred miles a year on my old slick-shod Orange mountain bike, if that. In the last couple of years, commuting from Birmingham to Banbury, the average had fallen further still – to all intents and purposes, I was an ex-wannbe-keen cyclist. That, let me tell you, doesn’t count for a lot.
We went crazy last year – my lovely Lucy and I took the plunge and opted for the cycle to work scheme, ordering bikes and even booking our summer holiday in the bike-friendly Ile de Re. Her Giant turned up, as it were, whilst I had to press-gang the sixteen-year-old mountain bike back into two more weeks of servitude. Come October, and a mere four months after I committed to the scheme, our company took the plunge and released the funds, and my new Kona hybrid was released from captivity.
It was a revelation. No serious off-road tool, it was happy enough dabbling with minor dirt track adventures, canal tow paths and little more serious than that, but the road ability was something else. I’d always fancied my rigid Orange, with slicks at bursting point, as a compromised but reasonable road tool – the 29” hoops on the Kona changed all that. It flew – the road miles that Orange nibbled at with unskilled enthusiasm, Kona bit great chunks out like a hungry orca. Makes me wonder what a real road bike would be like…
So in the spirit of fair play – after all, the Cycle To Work scheme is intended to be used for purchasing bicycles to cycle to work – come November I took the plunge and decided to take a crack at using the to ride to work, at least part of the 40 miles. It was, however, not a success -putting a hand in my pocket for a big wedge of cash for a train ticket from my nearest railway station to Banbury was a painful way to start, and the amount of time it added onto the working day was just intolerable. Sorry – for me, at this time and with this commute, the train isn’t going to take the strain, it’s just going to add to the stress. For me, it seemed, the cycle commute was over.
But I had a brain wave about six weeks ago, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before – on investigation, the recent purchase of a new and slightly larger car means that I can just about bend the Kona’s gangly tubes into the back with the front wheel out without too much hassle, and a new concept was born; drive part of the way, cycle part of the way, it couldn’t be much simpler.
So this brings us back to where we started – day one, having barely spun a wheel since the end of the train experiment in November was agony, the miles that slipped effortlessly under the Kendas in November were a chore, it felt like I had to fight for every inch. The site of my trusty footpump peeping out at me from the boot litter on day two sparked a revival that blew a breath of fresh air into my whole cycling world – having your boots blown up to bursting point might make the ride a little lively, let’s say, but the pain in the backside that you get from rock-hard tyres is considerably less of a pain in the backside than the extra effort required to rotate flabby rubber.