Two months ago, I was a smoker. An avid smoker. With absolutely no intention of ever giving up. Then one day my Vintage "Golden Pigeon" bicycle from China began to fall apart. Having to walk the rest of the way to the girl's shop, I knew I'd have to find another bike fairly sharpish & she soon suggested "Jeff & Victor have an old Racer out the back, they said it'd suit you".
Kind of suit me it did, at the Princely sum of £35.00 it was more than a bargain & I was back on the road. Immediately I was astonished that I, who would only have to jog to the ashtray & have to catch my breath, was overtaking not only pedestrians but also other cyclists! The brakes hardly worked but that didn't bother me in the slightest. I was hooked.
Of course as soon as I could I had to replace the vulgar white leatherette saddle with a handmade Brooks B17 & Brooks bar tape!
Within a week or so I went out for a ride, without a destination, just for the sake of going out for a ride. Literally for excercise! Bonkers. Living on the South coast I headed west on the road for 4 miles,stopping for a break, then took the seafront back home.
30 minutes & I was physically shattered. But, weirdly, felt quite good, and not really bothered with the pain from my neck,al the way down my back & obviously in my legs. Three days later I did it again & timed myself. I wasn't any faster but definately wanted to be. So I planned to do the route everyday for the next 7 days. I did get faster & it did get easier. After each ride a rush of what felt like adrenalin, but probably wasn't, poured over me. Someone mentioned "that'll be the natural endorphins", so I thought I'll have some more of them please! And I did.
Week 2 was 12 miles a day, though by now, with a speedo & taliking to other cyclists, we were into kilometres - 20 a day & being able to go longer without a break, I gradually began to feel . . . . kind of fitter, obviously & well, more alive. I could feel the blood pumping through my legs, gasping for breath after making it up the zig zags to a cliff top.But always ending with a smile on my face & a sense of accomplishment. JFK wasn't wrong when he said Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bike ride. I began to sleep better, rise earlier & the better I felt the more I wanted to get out on the bike.
It was after this second week that I said to myself, "the fags have to go & the legs have to grow", if I'm gonna take this half seriously & be able, not only to keep up with fitter cyclists & friends but able to put in 40+ miles in a day. So to my local "Smoke Stop" it was. Patches & mints. I must admit I've found it tricky, the odd one here & there after a week of none at all. But I'm I'm confident they'll be gone for good soon enough! My relationship with food has improved no end, cycling allows for huge apetites, before a 30 mile ride I've had an Armstrong breakfast, bowl of pasta, 2 bowls of muesli, 3 bananas, Vitamin C drink, a pint of protein shake & an apple. Three black coffee & as many cigarettes was all I ingested & interested in for many many years before noon. It's quite a change & possibly the best change I've ever made in my 32 years.
The clothing's been tricky. "Fuck lycra" I've quipped more than once, but a few close fitting Vintage cycling Jerseys look quite the trick on the Vintage Racer.
Mods in the early '60's were obsessed with any apparel from the continent, & cycling jerseys were on their backs regularly. It's not all about Harrington's & Desert boots. (In fact they miss the point completely if you ask me) So I'm slowly entering onto a new "scene", not one with concerns of showing 1/2 an inch cuff out of my mohair, 3 button jacket, but one of "group sets", derailleurs, Mavics, and thankfully one hell of a stylish Co. called Rapha. http://www.rapha.cc/ All Mod. All Cycling.
So, for me a new "Way Of Life" has begun. I'm getting through a book a week on the giants of past and present in world of cylcling. Jacques Anquetil & Laurent Fignon, awe inspiring characters form bygone eras. With endearing philosophies on their role of what being a World class cyclist meant to them of course can inspire everyone & they certainly did me. In Fignons "We were young & carefree" he says
" The lust for excitement, tempests & battles has always been there. It springs from the tiniest inkling of an idea. It looks wide eyed out at the world. I always wanted to grab life with both hands. Otherwise, what's the point of being on this earth? Is it pride when you prefer the surge of living things to slavish complacency? Is it vanity when you want to surprise yourself again & again? Is it a crime to have a competitive soul & a gamblers blood? Cycling is a living breathing Art. Those cyclists who forget that are halfway to becoming slobs. I wanted life to be full, every instant of it, beginning again everyday, I wanted it to be complete & loaded with surprises."
I of course couldn't express how it feels any better than that. I've begun to love my bike & everything it offers. Having made a few new pals who've been in to it for years, I've been convinced to go from Land's End to John O Groats next June for charity. Now I have the excuse, "I'm not going for a ride, I'm training. I'll see you in a bit."
I feel amazingly lucky also that havng only been into cycling for 6 weeks or so, it's coincided with Britain's best ever results in the World Championships in Copenhagen last week. Not only was it their best, they were better than every other nation with 6 medals in total & of course Mark Cavendish winning the Men's Elite Road Race. I haven't shouted at the TV so loud in years & was proud once more to be British.
And having the honour of wearing the coveted Rainbow Jersey all nnext year at events & main Tours.
Anyway, I really do have to go, the New Forest is calling & I wanna make it out there for sunset. My, how Friday nights have changed!