Time for a return to cycling?4th January 2014
Due to a problem with its brakes that I could not get myself to sort for too long, I have been away from cycling for the most of two years. Today, I finally decided to see if I could draw a line under the problem. While the result of my efforts was that I took the bike out for a quick run, I am not so convinced that the back brakes are fully up to the job just yet. Nevertheless, I have no intention to leave this one lie.
Even on that short cycle, I noticed that I was using muscles that were not used as much as they once were. So, I plan to do something about that during 2014. In fact, I am playing with the idea of getting a folding bicycle for trips to other parts that could offer some cycling. While doing some online and offline window shopping, it is amazing me who will sell you one of these. While Evans Cycles would be expected on many a shortlist and Halfords have been doing so for a while, names like Decathlon and Go Outdoors also come up. Also, for a name associated with motoring, it surprised me to see that around half the floor space in the Macclesfield branch of Halfords is devoted to cycling and there is a large variety of bikes on display too. Decathlon have a very nice commuting bike in stock and Go Outdoors have folding bikes for between £100 and £200 so there is a lot of temptation. Quite how cheaper bikes do over longer distances is another matter so it might be worth paying a little extra for something more decent.
As for those destinations where a folding bike would be handy, my mind does not need to roam far from home. Parts of the Peak District that are served by train come to mind and going along the Monsal Trail, the High Peak Trail or the Tissington Trail may become possibilities. The Longdendale Trail is served by trains to Hadfield but a folding bike is still handier than a full sized item. These are just a few off road cycling trails and pondering others takes into Wales for the Mawdach Trail and tracks into remote country in the Scottish Highlands become possibilities for more robust bicycles. The track by Loch Ericht first came to mind here but that by Loch Shiel also falls into the same category and both are served by convenient train stations at Dalwhinnie and Glenfinnan, respectively. Maybe hiring out a bike for a day would be no bad idea. Before then, my legs need more cycling acclimatisation (as does my head when it comes to road sense and confidence if a minor misjudgement at one end of the road on which I live is any indication) and staying modest for a little while sounds sensible. Longer days may have something to offer yet.
Since writing this, I found an article about bicycle braking that suggests that front brakes are better than back ones for stopping a bike. Of course, that makes me wonder about putting yourself out over handlebars on doing so yet the author says that keeping your arms straight avoids this. Nevertheless, speaking with someone at work revealed tales from childhood of getting thrown over bicycle handlebars and with broken wrists after one such mishap. Maybe I need to consult a book on cycling technique…
During a conversation with a work colleague, minds wandered back to harem scarem antics with bicycles on Irish country roads. Her dad and his pals used to race downhill as fast as they could to see far they could freewheel uphill afterwards. If want a picture in your mind’s eye, think of a steep drop to a bridge crossing a stream and a steep rise immediately afterwards. Only for cars being rare in Ireland at the time, one doesn’t dare to wonder what would happen if one did pass the way around this hilly part of Wicklow.
As for myself, recollections of travelling around none too flat roads around West Limerick on a hand-me-down bike from my brother with ineffective brakes come to mind. A set of trainers got well worn on tarmac that summer; foot braking was in order. There was one mishap when my aged Brooks saddle broke and I somersaulted onto the grass roadside verge as a result. Small wonder then that my trust in bicycle brakes is so minuscule. Having cycled around Edinburgh’s hills cannot have helped, especially when a torrential downpour was the cause of my being unable to stop on Lothian Road one July afternoon. Even now, it is an effort to get myself cycling down steeper inclines so gaining some extra confidence is well in order.
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