My non-cycling colleagues, I’m sure, reckon I border on the delusional with my enthusiasm for bike commuting. I’m a true convert to the cult of two-wheeled travel; it takes pretty horrendous weather to make me pick the hell of public transport over the freedom and fresh air of the bike in the morning, and I can count on one hand the number of evenings when cycling home has felt like anything other than one of the best bits of my day.
Incidentally I was in London earlier this week for work, and got a chance to take this photo at rush-hour Liverpool Street station – in a previous life this was my daily commute. *shudders*
Last Friday evening should have been a belter of a ride. Not only was there a howling tailwind right behind me, but it has been my last day in work for a whole week. YES!
All was going well until I was about a mile from home. Then things under my left foot started to feel weird. Wobbly weird to be precise.
In a matter of seconds, my foot was waving round in the air with pedal and crank lying in the road 20 metres behind me.
(I might have actually said something a little fruitier at the time…)
There was nothing for it but to go and rescue the unfortunate bit of hardware from the path of oncoming traffic, pull over on to the pavement and start plodding.
Ok I thought, only a mile to go, I’ve got comfy shoes – I should have this under my belt in 15 mins or so. What’s the worst that could happen?
Ha! Right on cue a downpour of truly apocalyptic ferocity showed up. A downpour against which even my Goretex hiking jacket was utterly, laughably overwhelmed. Wet through and, now I wasn’t working up any pedalling warmth, cold – in a matter of seconds I plummeted from mild irritation to full-on-tearing-at-my-hair-woe. The eagerly-anticipated trip home to see my family the next day became 6 hours of impending rail-travel hell. The end-of-week tiredness became utter exhaustion and a crushing anxiety about my general professional performance. Remembering that I should call a friend who was expecting a baby any day became a deep bout of self-loathing over what a terrible uncaring friend I was because I hadn’t called her for a over a week. A thought that I should draw some cash before travelling next morning became excruciating torture over my ever-precarious finances. Every pedestrian who passed me was surely a violent mugger, every driver was hell bent puddle splashing me (OK, the number 22 bus at one point did actually do this). In short, a bit of rain and a broken bike felt like the end of the world.
Somehow, through my misery I heard a squeal of bike brakes alongside and a cheery looking chap on a red tourer pulled up. (“Rapist! Murderer! Bike thief!” screamed my paranoid, rain-sozzled brain).
“You OK love?” he says. “Puncture? I’ve got a repair kit?”
Explaining that my catastrophic bike failure was beyond the help of tyre levers and that my home was really just across the road now, he set off again into the downpour with a cheery “Take care then. Ta ra!”. Not a murderer then, just a normal, decent bloke.
And suddenly everything was OK with the world again. One fellow cyclist’s kindness had snapped my out of my gloom and reminded me that a hot bath followed by dry clothes and a (very large) glass of wine were just around the corner. And that travelling by bike is still awesome.