Saturday, 10 January 2015

A Grand Don't Come For Free

Last year I entered a strange and mysterious secret society. Well, not that strange, I suppose. Or mysterious, come to think of it. On reflection, I guess it's not so secret.

Ok. I entered a society. Sort of.

You may have seen me mention it in one or two of the many postings I made in 2014. I suppose you could have missed it, buried as it was in the near-photographic recollection of everything else that happened to me in the twelve months. But for those of you that weren't paying attention, I became a cyclist.

I know. It surprised me too. I just thought I'd obtained a bike. But no. Without realising it, I had become a member of the Cyclorati.  It turns out that when you walk your new bike out of the shop, the Cycling Gods catch sight of you and put you under their spell, or something. I can't explain it.

I mean, there I was, minding my own business, when I realised I wasn't getting any younger (apart from Benjamin Button, who is?) and my waistline was expanding to equal my age in years. That's never a good thing to realise as you plummet headlong into your mid 40s, is it?

I'd toyed with the idea of regular exercise in the past. Approximately a million years ago I'd been a regular member of a gym. Of course, by 'regular member' I mean I had a direct debit going out of my bank account and some lovely branded towels in the airing cupboard. But after the first few months of going, I'd come to the conclusion that sitting on my sofa with some biscuits was much better for the soul.

More recently, I'd taken up going for long walks in the countryside. But, lovely though the countryside is, it tends not to move too quickly when you're walking through it. I get bored quite easily, you see.

So, inspired by my workmates, many of whom were ardent cyclists, last April I went out and got something called a Giant Escape 3 Hybrid. I was slightly disappointed to realise that 'hybrid' doesn't mean 'it has an electric motor to help you up hills' (although such things do exist), merely that it was a sort of mix between a road bike and a mountain bike. Here it is:


But here's the thing. I actually found that I quite enjoyed riding the thing. After my first purchase of padded shorts, it hurt a lot less. You can't see in this photo, but the saddle is not a seat. Oh dear no, it's a shelf, upon which you may rest your derriere from time to time. But don't expect anything in the way of comfort. My backside is, basically, my suspension.

We were lucky in that 2014's weather was relatively benign and so I ended up going out on it regularly, all the way up to December. And I was out on it once more on the second day of 2015, when the rest of the civilised world still seemed to be sleeping off the port and sausages.

And as I headed out on 2 January, I had a thought. I'm not one for New Year's Resolutions. But it's quite nice to have a target to aim for. And there I was, 2015 stretching out in front of me like a sodding great big 52 week-shaped blank canvassy-thing. So why not set myself a little challenge?

I'm in the position now where I can do 20-mile plus rides relatively easily, although hills are still an issue and I tend to bimble along at an average 10 mph, so I'm not what you call competitive. But why don't I see if I can hit a mileage total for 2015? How about 1,000 miles over the year?

Your serious cyclists will by now be collapsing in laughter. One thousand sounds like a lot, especially if you write it in words, but to your seasoned lycra-jockey it really isn't. Some competitive events - open to amateurs, believe it or not - hit 600 km (360 miles) in a single ride. I'd think twice about driving that distance in a fully-fuelled car, to be honest.

But to hit 1,000 miles, the distance of each ride is less critical. Consistency is the key. I need to get on my bike weekly throughout the year. I need to perhaps get on it more often than that when daylight and weather allow. And I need to satisfy the nerdy statistician in me by keeping records and ticking-off the miles as they pass.

I'm not doing this for any good cause. I don't want to be sponsored (although I might do the odd event in the year). I'm not even certain I'll end up finishing it. But it just seemed to me to be worth an attempt.

Don't worry, though. This blog will not turn itself over to bike-related discussions. I'm exercising so I can live, not the other way around. But, if anything, it gives me a reason to update it.

And for the record, the current statistics are: 15.4/1,000.

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