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Into the Arena


A sunny Sunday morning was chosen for the obligatory reconnaissance trip. The intended route (nicely folded) together with a mini A to Z (emergency back-up) were both stuffed in a jersey pocket before I cautiously set off for the City. Despite all the meticulous ‘planning’ my clumsy route finding, bad memory and hesitation didn’t mix well with mouthy, impatient Sunday drivers seen at uncomfortably close quarters. The experience bore little resemblance to the freedom of the open road or flying down dusty singletrack. Where was ‘The Joy of Bike’? With little time and even less room for dithering two-wheelers on the city streets I wondered how I’d deal with the cut and thrust of the Monday morning rush hour.

An insistent beep ushered in Monday morning, waking me at an ungodly hour. Clumsily I fumbled for the clock but, remembering why I’d set the alarm so early, I pushed myself out of bed. It was my last heroic act of that day. I’d laid out kit and packed lunch the night before but, bleary eyed, I fumbled around for too long. My lack of urgency meant the last thing I did was to wheel the bike out only to find a flat tyre (a self-tapping screw had burrowed deep into the heart of new rubber). Instantly my spirits deflated too, intentions crumpled, I checked my watch and capitulated disappointingly fast. Deciding to jump into work clothes and march to the station I shamefully locked the bike away again.

Wednesday followed Tuesday and still my timid soul provided excuses for not riding in like having to buy shoes, then a suit for a family wedding. I told myself perhaps it wasn’t such a good week to start commuting by bike, maybe next week. But the eyes of this guilty pedestrian were constantly drawn toward those brave, ‘ordinary’ souls riding their bikes through the Capital’s streets. So what was my problem? Was I really such a lightweight? I’d been a (laughably) serious cyclist on and off-road for nearly twenty years, surely I was up to it? Cycle couriers may be a breed apart but if those other ‘ordinary Joes’ could do it, day in day out, then so could I. No more lame excuses or tired apologies to my bike. The next day I’d be prepared, the next day I’d ride.

Thursday morning I rode; finally possessing my two square yards of tarmac.
Thousands of miles have rolled under my wheels since and nowadays it feels like I kind of own the journey. Who said, “Do something that scares you everyday”? Well commuting frequently fits that bill yet that’s part of the buzz; every trip presents a new set of challenges. When the day is done there are more highs than lows and yet another tale to tell by another ordinary cyclist.