Hands up, I’m not a ‘proper’ cyclist.
Evidence of this? I have never purchased apair of Compression Elite Tights to ensure sweat free, aerodynamic cycling. I have heard of the word ‘crank’ but admittedly I have no idea what a crank does, and unforgivably, I couldn’t tell you what bike I actually ride. Carrera, Apollo, Boardman? I hate to say it, but I only know these names because I just had a brief biking encounter with Google. If ‘Mountain’ is acceptable, I will go with that.
Last year I had one of those moments where I was encouraged to get back on the two-wheeled wonder.
Initially it seemed like a daunting task. For those of you that ride seriously (by that I mean, those of you who ride as a pack and intimidatingly over take me as I cycle along with my Hawkshead rucksack as my only form of protection) you will probably easily remember the last time you got on a bicycle, because, quite frankly, it was yesterday. Or if you’re a really dedicated cyclist, this morning.
Before my re-encounter began with my dashing wheels, the last time my bottom sat on my (at the time) top of the range gel saddle, was indeed when I was 16. I am now twenty-two.
6 months have gone by since my newfound relationship with my bike began and what a remarkable experience it has been. I have cycled many hundreds of miles along riverbanks cooing ‘Hello!’ at equally country-ish people, through woods fearing for my life as I hurtled down hills seemingly steeper than Everest (sort of), I have even given up my car in replacement of the said new mode of transport. However, despite the good this new relationship has brought to my life, I am still faced with one daunting issue, one that requires the help of you professionals: The bell. The high pitched, mother of all snobbery, bell. Will my life be in jeopardy if I use it?
Now, before you log off in sheer disgust that I actually have a bell on my bike, I would like to point out that my bike came with a bell already on it.
To begin with, the silver feature provided me with some kind of childish excitement. I would ride through the woods alone ‘tinging’ it whenever I felt inclined. But as my biking obsession developed, my bell obsession dwindled. In fact, as my relationship with my newfound love reached its 3-month anniversary, I found myself despising the said bell with all the hate in the world. It had me feeling like David Cameron wearing a tee-shirt with ‘TRAINEE’ written across it within his first month of electivity. Truly, utterly, awful.
It was as I was out this Sunday, however, that for the first time since my hatred for this metal lump on my handlebars had evolved, I actually felt inspired to use it again. But not for my previous, four year old like entertainment. I considered using my bell for its intended purpose; people were in my way, and ultimately, I wanted them out of it.
Riding along a narrow path full of New Year’s day troopers was perhaps a silly idea when I was on a mission to start the year with an impressive and Olympian like cycle, but as I positioned my bike in my car, waterproof at the ready and Nike trainers on my feet (sorry, no spikes, I told you I wasn’t a pro) I didn’t consider the possibility of fellow human beings blocking my cycling path.
I began approaching my first set of inconveniences at speed. My wrists were jerking as a result of a seriously rocky surface below and my heart was throbbing in my chest like a jail man shaking at his prison bars. But people were in my way. I had to get through.
I didn’t know what to do. I instantly felt like I was in the wrong, like I should slow down my impressively heroic speed and for a minute run alongside my bike as I politely overtook without causing any interface at all. I mean, who was I to think I could ask pedestrians to move out of my way just because I was sat on a bicycle? Being on a bike didn’t mean I had some kind of godly power over mere pedestrians, did it?
I began to break and in turn my wheels started to slow, but it was as I was respecting the people in front of me that I suddenly remembered something else: my bell!
I looked down. I couldn’t use it! How rude of me would it be to bell people out of my way?!
Its silver circular face seemed to peer back at me for some time, torturing me, seething at me for not using it, teasing me with its tiny black lever, so small but so powerful in this frightful situation. And then I looked up. The people were right in front of me!
I suddenly swung right, harshly jolting the handle bars to avoid a small child, pulling aggressively on my brakes, plummeting for a four foot ditch, careering towards a killer bed of nettles, diving through an Amazonial like puddle, desperate to come out the other side alive! I gasped for my final breath!
And then I opened my eyes. I’d made it. Still on my bike. Unhurt. Cycling. Moving my legs like a pro. The child wasn’t even crying! I’d just overtaken pedestrians without using the dreaded bell!
I felt like I was cycling to cloud 9. ‘Dam you bell!’ I cursed.
As the ride went on I built up the courage to verbalise my thoughts and my over-taking tactics soon evolved to shouting “EXCUSE ME PLEASE!” in advance of new obstacles, I wasn’t in the mood for forfeiting my life again. After 7 or 8 encounters and this method working quite successfully, something happened. I felt myself wanting to use my bell.
I waited until my next prey came in to target; a family of four. And then I noticed- they weren’t pedestrians, they weren’t merely staggering along on foot, they too were on bikes. They were also cyclists.
Fear ignited with in me.
Everything inside of me was ready to flick that little black lever, to pass by after ringing the silver lump sat next to my thumb. The last 8 over takings had given me the courage I needed to get by, to do this, to ring my bell!
My heart was pounding again. I felt like a middle class girl desperate to tuck the sticking out label of a lower class girl’s Primark tee shirt back in where it belonged.
I winced, the family were getting closer. I had to do it, it was time to do it! I gripped my handle bars for dear life, my shoulders and my arms and my back braced and my feet began to peddle faster and then before I even had time to stop my self… ‘TING TING!!!!’ And my bell had rung.
I shot past shouting ‘Thank yooouuuu!’ as I over took the family of four. Mother Duck and her three children had successfully moved out of my way due the aid of my shiny bell and I didn’t even have to slow down! My plan had worked, I was cycling on a narrow straight fighting for gold! I felt like a champion for using my snobbishly silver bell successfully!
And then the worst thing happened. Lord Jesus, I heard a ting.
And as I swerved to the left fearing for my life as mud flickering splats edged nearer, fragile high pitched ‘TINGS’ reverberating through my ear drums, I looked right. And to my sheer horror, Mother Duck was cycling level with me STARING into my eyes.
Her look said it all.
Never EVER ring my bell at her again. Or my bike WILL get it.
I feverishly slowed down. I watched the Duck and her family cycle in to the distance. I changed down to gear seven and nervously stayed cycling like that for the rest of my ride. And that’s when I began to question my cycling etiquette; I just risked my life for the sake of a stupid silver bell. Was it really, actually worth it?