Every morning for the last seven months I have left my diminutive one bedroom flat at 7:30 sharp and made my way from the raggedy edged border between town and countryside towards the small parochial and bucolic local station. It’s the sort with a big white station house that, despite the crudely tacked on billboards adverts for taxi companies, clearly belongs in another century. Then I wait on the tarmaced platform waiting for a flat-nosed, lumbering blue and pink behemoth to take me to work. It is a titanic 5 minute journey, for the privilege of this I pay about £55 every month. It is a sorry state of affairs, for as I have mentioned many times in the past: I fucking hate trains. The idea of trains? Sure, fine, they’re brilliant. Actually using them? Fuck off, just fuck right off.
But soon this is all about to change. For this weekend I did something outlandish. Something so utterly out of character for me that both my mother and my brother are wondering whether I have been replaced by a government-cyborg/doppelgänger/alien-clone/sinister-otherworldly-similacrum (delete as appropriate.)
This weekend I bought another means of getting to work every morning.
I bought another mode of transportation.
A duel-wheeled man-powered conveyance
Though the notion of using my body and energy to propel me workwards is not entirely in keeping with the ethos of me (for it is exercise and exercise is anathema) it boiled down to a simple matter of finance. Yes, there is a large initial expenditure, but within 6 months I will have largely recouped this by no longer being continual gouged for my precious pennies by the evil corporate shits at First Great Western Railways. And the commute is likely to take about as long as it currently does. Though the train journey is only 5 minutes there’s still the 10 minutes walk to and from the station at either end, and the 10-15 minutes waiting around on the platform due to inevitable delays.
The prospect of buying a bike filled my with a kind of inexplicable dread. Have you any idea just how many bikes are on the market? The number borders on the sheer terrifying. And what do I know about bikes? Their self-propelled frames of metal with two wheels. That’s about it. I had not idea where to start. Thankfully there was a solution to this slight conundrum. For just as I have a plethora of IT-guys to tell me what computer bits to get/buy/replace I also have a bike-guy. For a few years back my Dad joined the ranks of the MAMILs or to give them their full name: The Middle Aged Men In Lycra.
He jets around the northern countryside on a fancy road bike so light it may as well be made from dragonfly wings and faerie farts, a thing with a price tag that makes the eyes water. To him a 60 mile bike ride generally falls under a category marked “a quick jaunt after work, you know, just for giggles.” So I fired off an email that basically read “Dad I want to buy a bike, which one.” Less than 24 hours later he had dutifully replied to me with 3 options pointing out the advantages of low frame weights and exactly how wide my tires should be. I whittled these 3 options down to a single model and last Saturday I went to buy it from the local bike shop.
I had a nervousness about the entire venture. Perhaps some unconscious worry that the moment that I entered the world of bikes one of the staff would point angrily at me before shouting “Imposter! You know nothing of bikes! Get out, get out, GET OUT!” Such was my wariness that I nearly abandoned the entire thing and put it off “till another day.” By which of course I mean never. But I soldiered on, entered the bike shop and clearly, if somewhat nervously, told them which bike I wanted to look at. They made sure it was the right size, I picked up a helmet, a bike lock and a pump then trundled off back home several hundred pounds lighter in the pocket.
So now I find myself sharing a large portion of my bedroom with a bicycle painted in a graphite grey. I’m hypnotised by the slope of the down tube, the taper of the top tube, the slight curved flaring of the chain stays, the way the handlebars are shaped to nestle perfectly within a closed palm.
I’m going to call her Izzy.