It’s my first commute back on the bike (post carpal tunnel operation, post torn ankle ligaments (official diagnosis)) and just so happens to coincide with National Cycle To Work Day which just so happens to coincide with the hottest day in a September for one hundred years which all amounts to: chaos on the roads. At times the commuter peloton was twenty riders long, the bunch sprint away from the lights fifty strong. Chaos.
I’m out of sorts, all over the place. My fitness is down. I’m struggling to chug along at a pace that keeps in front of, up with or simply out of the way of the disorganised and undisciplined commuter road trains that sweep past. As I battle to stay upright I desperately cling to a positive, any positive, my loss of fitness proves that the cycling to work builds and maintains a good base fitness. It’s worth it then, the early morning rush out the door, the daily battle with all the other road users (who hate cyclists – too often we give them good reason), the showering at work, the sweating at your desk, the constant risk of forgetting a shoe or pants – either the English or American meaning of the word, both would be awkward.
Losing fitness was expected. I hadn’t anticipated losing my flow, my rhythm, my just knowing what is going to happen next. Cars cut in, cyclist move out, mopeds overtake. I knew all that. But it was taking me time to remember the when, where and how. If I was a first timer embracing National Cycle To Work Day, I’d be terrified. I risked moving out in the wrong place, cutting in too soon, missing the angles, underestimating the incoming speeds – simply getting in the way. Walking down the ramp to the garage under my office I was glad it was over.
I was also glad there would be a tomorrow. To do it all again, the blinding sunrise, the mist on the river at Putney, the cool morning air AND the not sweating uncomfortably in a suit on a train.