Elements or Lower

Fri, 06 Aug 2004

Andrew’s Latest Cycling Calamity

The trouble with only having learned to ride my bike a couple of years ago is that I missed out on that period as a kid where you learn how to fall off your bike properly; where a spectacular catapult over the handlebars leaves you with nothing more than a grazed knee.

As part of our get-buff-before-the-wedding fitness regime, the missus and I are back in the habit of biking round the Thames path between here and the flood barrier. For most of the way, the path is divided between a footpath and a cycle path, but by and large, pedestrians have an annoying habit of lurking on the cycle path and leaving one with only a couple of inches to get past.

Thanks to a combination of gross inexperience and the physical dexterity of a chair, I’m shockingly bad at being able to turn corners without an ocean of room on either side. So yesterday — it had to happen sometime — squeezing past a mother and son, I found myself needing to make, oh, about a 30 turn to avoid a low-level wall, and encountered a rapid sense of panic as I realised my speed was marginally too great, the gap marginally too small, and my skills far too enfeebled, to accomplish the task.

They teach you, as a child, not to brake hard with the front brake, as the bike then has a tendency to stop dead, and the momentum to tip you forward and over the top. This was the lesson it took me until thirty years of age to learn, as I landed with a good, solid, full-bodied slap onto the unforgiving pavement, having abruptly dismounted the bike above the handlebars.

It’s a testimony to Apple’s engineering prowess that the force of a 14 st. 10 lbs gentleman landing on the iPod fazed it not one bit. A cheerful ditty by The Beloved (entitled, would you believe, Up, Up and Away) continued to play gently as I tried to recover my wind. Less can be said for my ribcage, which is as sore as a spanked schoolboy this morning, despite a conspicuous lack of bruising.

The missus enquired whether it was the bemused pedestrians’ fault, offering to “kick their arses”. This kind of loyalty in the face of evident incompetence is a beautiful, beautiful thing, although I suspect the prospect of a good arse-kicking mitigated any skepticism she may have had regarding their culpability for the whole sorry affair. Nonetheless, common-sense won, and the pedestrians continued on their way.