I must admit, with age I am becoming less keen on urban cycling. So much so that weeks where I avoid go by. But circumstances change and once more again it’s the case the hundreds of kilometers on heavily congested roads go by.
If you shift through it, there are certain things that you ought to learn. When you cut through lanes of traffic or pull out and overtake, you really do need some idea of what the traffic you pass is going to do next. You can’t see what the driver is doing or where they are looking, so is there a way to predict their actions? Yes. By looking at the part of the car that moves. The wheels are the only part of the car that moves and when someone wants to change lane, the wheels move, which in turn causes the body of the car to move with them, and in turn changes the direction the car is going in.
Many times over I find myself in space on the road but need to be sure a vehicle isn’t going to claim it. You can never be sure as a cyclist if a driver has seen you or not and only a fool would put their own fate in the hands of another. But if you focus on their wheels first, you can tell what they are going to do, which means you have more time to react. So when you look at another road user and want to know what they are doing, the wheels will tell you first if they are going to turn into you or sideswipe you.
Now that I am putting a lot of time on the bike in tough conditions, it’s little things like that which come back accordingly.
I am willing to admit since I was a teen I have always thought I am happiest when I’m on my bike. Approaching the grand old age of 50, today’s ride confirms there is still no change on that one. The reasons why cycling produces happiness may change and today the reason I enjoyed my ride so much is because it’s left me in a state of utter disbelief.
Three years ago I was far fitter than I have ever been in my entire life. I was never off my bike and no matter the distance I absolutely hammered it from A to B everytime. The amount of power I put into my legs meant that I was doing up to 150kms in a day and some weeks between 300-500kms. I still know which routes I always took in the city and what my average speed was at various stages and so on.
At present I am very unfit, courtesy of being out of work and everything being shut down. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do until we recover from the current pandemic and things return to normal. So like most people I have become inactive and am at home mostly. You could say I’ve become quite lazy with so little to do. All week I have been telling myself to get out on my bike everyday as that gives me the chance to stretch my legs and release some of the stress from a difficult situation. I then established a route in the city, a lap of a downtown area near where I stay. Not much, only like 10-15kms or something. So today was my trial run and something very unexpected happened. I already know why but expect to remain in a state of total disbelief for quite some time.
If we compare fitness levels three years ago to now, the difference is enormous. So large in fact the two are incomparable. I have nothing like the power in my legs now. So you would expect that when I used my bike today I would be moving with much less speed than I used to. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, my average speed was massively higher. Normally when I don’t use my bike much I don’t use the biggest gear either. Today, however, it was the only gear I used and I was able to accelerate in it faster than I ever have despite my lack of fitness. And not only that, I also went and broke my record for flat terrain by a fair bit without even trying to. I literally could not believe what I was seeing on my odometer from start to finish.
So how on earth is it possible to break my own records when my level of fitness is much much lower than it usually is? There is only one answer. It has nothing to do with the condition of your body and everything to do with the condition of your mind. The frustration that has built up in these difficult times badly needs an outlet. That outlet is my bicycle. The force I flew down the roads with was nothing more than the release of built up frustration, the reserves of energy in use vast. It’s going to take time to sink in what I achieved today. To do it in the shape I am in is something quite astonishing.
I guess I am getting older as we all are. What I could achieve before just isn’t so easy now?
Or was it more to do with the following: if you want to do 100 km’s in one hit and you have been hitting a hard diet for a month, think on. I totaled around 45 km mark and could muster no more -there was nothing left in the tank. I had to put another 15 km’s on the bike later that evening but that was nothing much, in fact I really went for it in top gear from start to finish.
I left at 5am and so almost nothing of the journey. I love cycling but I must admit urban traffic is taking its toll. You have to be so aware, and so many have poor driving habits. So I thought well a ride alongside the river might be nice but within 10 mins I knew there was not enough in the tank, I was running on empty from the start.
So if you want to journey off somewhere, make sure you have fuel in the system because it is not pleasant to find yourself in the middle of nowhere and having to fuel up at a 7-11 with a long sit down.
Current fitness level allows for 20-40 km’s per trip. High protein diet doesn’t really allow for much more. Maybe I’m just getting older and it takes longer for fuel to go in the system but both the day before and the breakfast before the ride it was all carbohydrate…ah well. Lesson learned.
If you love to cycle, as we all should. Urban cycling can really take it out of you. I put a solid 78.92 kms onto the bike last Wednesday during rush hour, well according to the new odometer anyway. The level of concentration needed was obscene.
I told myself there is a trip long overdue, I’m doing nothing this weekend, let’s do it. Pics to follow.
So I cycled into the city, a mere 40-50 kms whilst out of shape and lacking coordination and confidence. How was it?
Bloody hard on every level. I don’t like being one-speed and not fast enough to pull out in front of traffic when I have to. I don’t have anything like the confidence I had a couple of years back and so had to hug the inside lane instead of zip about.
I got caught in torrential rain too. 6 days on I still feel it. In retrospect it was too much of a step up, however, my intentions were honorable. We have to move on and push ourselves off otherwise we won’t make a start. I think my advice is to understand that without power in the legs to push on at the speed your style of riding is bent around, cycling isn’t half the fun you think it is.
Wiser me tell myself don’t do it today. Legs are still sore. I run and cycle everyday, and only this week was it the case that the muscles in my shoulder are moving again. Tomorrow’s ride by the river cancelled too. Best to build up slowly and when fitness is up again, then we can move on -keeping it very local until then… .
For some time I have not been able to write, the reasons are varied. With hypomania vanishing and a relocation which made cycling too stressful even for me, I lost use of my bike. Then lost fitness. Weight crept on and on and all of a sudden my love of cycling just wasn’t there. With copious complications with my bicycle itself and no trained mechanic to fix the most serious of them in sight, I nearly left my bike behind as it can’t be dismantled so easily now and is the worse for wear.
Health worsened, changes in medication occurred. Torrential rain and rust kept me off my bike, and until two weeks ago that’s how it was going to stay. Until I had a huge seizure that so nearly cost me my life -now I am back on my bike. It’s certainly true that the damage to the nervous system remains and that I do not yet have full use of my body. It is also true that my coordination isn’t there yet as if I turn my head, my judgement slows -just like it did when I fractured my skull the first time.
Overweight and out of shape in many respects, I will cycle into the center of Bangkok today and then cycle back out. Helmet being used? No, of course not but I will wear a bandanna. So why the change? How is all this justified when even as I type these words concern over what I am doing grips? Well put simply I lament losing hypomania more than I can put into words. At my fittest nothing could keep me off my bike, no distance was too great. I even cycled 149.6kms for an interview, yes. And I belted it there and back no problems.
So why the change. The jolt from struggling to regain full consciousness and not being able to walk or speak properly has changed matters. I took various hits as I collapsed and one must have been on the head because its both numb and sore in a new place, in a place it was never sore in before. There’s no feeling at all on the right-hand side of my head, its all gone.
It really isn’t pleasant to feel close to death, I can assure you but somehow it’s spun the handlebars around and sent me in a new direction. It’s as if I have a second wind of hyper mania because sleep is nigh on impossible again even though energy levels are up. So with impetus I told myself to revel in what I once had. I don’t put barriers in front of myself anymore by talking myself out of things.It’s back to the grind, push on, push hard and never stop pushing -that is the blessing that head injuries from cycling can give. So on we go but with fitness down I need two months before I can keep up with the traffic…
If I stay alive, I will be in a position to cycle north of the city along the river to Ang Thong, which I have been planning for some time now…well planning on and off. Before then I will post pics today. Not of me no. With a dead appetite and no ability to consume alcohol at all I may have dropped a kilo or six but there are many, many more to be dropped before I could even consider taking pics of my ugly self, anyway…
Apologies to those who are daft enough to read this forsaken blog of mine for the long delay in writing. I’m not the world’s best at climbing steep mountains and so I have cycled less than I have wanted to and also found myself too far from anyone who could supply me with the many spare parts I required, courtesy of the rough terrain.
In addition, readjusting to two major cycling accidents has become a real challenge even though I have recovered further. Although you may recover physically it does not follow that you recover mentally, I assure you -wear a helmet always.
Two and a half years on I learnt that the compression in my skull where I hit the ground in the first accident isn’t healing, isn’t going to heal and is going to cause mild pain for life -I just have to learn to live with it. I was also told that the loss of muscle tissue in some areas triggered by weeks in hospital was so great that a lack of mobility and a second source of pain is going to require corrective surgery. Learning that neither will simply ‘go away’ has been a hammer blow, a blow which is not easily dealt with -once I recommend you wear a helmet.
Not every injury can heal itself so read what is written here and don’t take good health for granted. A helmet costs little and can save your life. More so it can save you from a lot of pain, a lot of suffering, and a better life. Bear in mind the points below:
If you are tired whilst cycling you will lose concentration -one mistake is all it will take.
If you are cycling in the city, you share a road with many others -one mistake from another road user can cause an impact.
You have no protection except for your skull.
It’s better to learn from the mistakes of others than your own.
I will remain in pain for life because I did not.
This has been written for your benefit not mine.
Enjoy your next ride wherever it may be and don’t forget that helmet…I sincerely hope to write more over the summer, and perhaps post a pic or two of me cycling off into the sunset with a cheesy grin.
Does this picture say a thousand words or thereabouts?
If not then I will proffer some pointers:
‘It’s a big old place, massive really.’
‘The silly buggers drive on the wrong side of the road and not on the left-hand side, as everyone should’
‘They drive like nutters…well like those from an agrarian society, undeveloped , just like the West was 100 years ago, back then with so few cars on the road no one took evasive action until an accident was imminent, as people drove in the same way that they walked with little attention being paid to what was around them.’
‘It rains quite a lot.’
‘There’s bugger all to do.’
‘Their food is shit.’
Any guesses as to where I ended up this time?
Okay final hint:
‘The way they drive is so terrible it makes cycling extremely uncomfortable…not that that will stop me…’
I should be familiar with the roads and the way people drive in England but that’s not so. I am much more familiar with the roads in Bangkok where the density of traffic is so high that motorists can’t do very much at all.
In England many people adhere to the ‘Highway Code’ but many do not which makes cycling in cities and towns harder than it should be. The great advantage of busy roads is that it makes it much easier to predict what the cars around you will do, which is usually nothing other than go in a straight line. But when the roads aren’t so busy and the mannerisms of the drivers are so variable, sometimes you just can’t guess what they will do.
They should give you 90 cms of width when overtaking but on most roads this is not possible. Some slow down, others speed up. To some you are a priority and to others you don’t even exist.
When you go out into the countryside its wonderful. That cold, fresh air. The scarcity of cars, the freedom to do what you like…that’s what makes it the best country in the world to cycle in, in my opinion.
In a few days’ time, I will be cycling close to where my bicycle was made…pictures to follow.
As wonderful as England in the summer is, the hot weather will never last. When that happens the mood of the nation drops. Everyone wears more clothes and reverts back to looking miserable again. For us cyclists its no fun. Wind and slippery roads take the pleasure out of it. With the government spending less on maintaining the roads, making them more of a concern for we cyclists, we often have to keep one eye on the road -on the lookout for potholes- one eye on the traffic -and its unpredictability- and another eye on the time -as it waits for no man…or woman.
So its a trip to the chess club on greasy roads. I will take pictures.
Just the one pic, it was sunny by the time I left!