This week had more cycling in it than usual.
This was a three-ride day: to work, to town, and home in the evening. As usual, the night ride was my favourite ride – road quiet, air cool.
The traffic – quiet for a few weeks now – is creeping back to its old impatience and noise. Somehow I’ve hurt my right arm (I say somehow, as if I’m mystified, but I know for a fact it was from trying and failing to do a push-up challenge) which makes me feel precarious on the bike. It’s strange, arms – you wouldn’t think they’d make a difference, but they do.
A four-ride day: to and from uni, then later, to and from town. These were all small rides, but it meant sweating through two sets of clothes. I have given up trying to hold back the sweat, so there’s some acceptance here, but I’m not at peace with it.
It was really peaceful though to cycle home at night, slightly boozed, slogging up Raroa then Mt Pleasant in the dark. It’s interesting how I can set out on my bike feeling sort of abysmal and full of self-pity, but once I’ve ridden up a couple of hills I feel cheery. It’s almost embarrassing how quickly a feeling can change, and how making your legs go round and round can be the thing to change them.
I also managed a tiny run today, through the bush. INJURY TALK: My Achilles is still creaking but I think I might be winning it over.
Another four-ride day. Before my morning ride, I woke up early and walked up to the turbine. A lot of people were out and about, with their dogs, or just running, and a lot of Californian quail were out too. I saw one running alone, looking around, as if looking for its mate – it’s rare to see a quail on its own. I was about to write something like ‘A quail is the definition of nervous energy’ but does nervousness mean anything to a quail? Does energy?
Rode to work in foul smoggy heat. I had a guilty moment at a pedestrian crossing in Kelburn, when a pedestrian turned right to go over the crossing but I was going too fast to stop for them. I felt terrible as I scythed through. Worse, I am 99% sure the pedestrian was Dougal McNeill.
Rode to town. Rode back to work. Rode home. All of these were small rides, and not really worth describing, but know that they were full of struggle.
Lately, I’ve been craving two things: to be by the sea in the early morning, and to ride on a flat road. So at 6.30am I set off to ride around Miramar Peninsula. (I’d planned to be out by 6, but couldn’t manage it.)
I dipped down into Aro and then back up to Brooklyn, then down Happy Valley. This was an unwieldy way of doing things, and I could’ve gone along Highbury Fling then sailed down effortlessly into Brooklyn, but I wanted to have a series of steep hills first thing to wake me up.
It was very still and clear, and early enough for the day to feel exciting in some way. And early enough to notice those little shifts in communal mood as the morning goes on. As the light changes, we no longer have the same compulsion to say ‘Morning’ and soon enough it’s just an ordinary day and nothing needs to be said.
On Happy Valley Rd I saw a man walking a dog and a cat. Also, a group of older men were cycling at a gentle pace up the road, spaced far apart and all looking delighted about things. Near the turn-off to the landfill, a car roared past at speed to overtake all of them, leaving a smell of petrol and smoke.
The fishing boats at Island Bay looked like they were sitting up attentively. Lots of dogs were out being walked. Someone was bashing their flippers against the sea wall.
For me, the real ride begins once you get past Lyall Bay and reach the airport. Then you go round Moa Point. The traffic dwindles to almost nothing and it’s just you, the sea, the occasional other cyclist.
But where were the women? Every single cyclist I saw – some in packs, some solo – was a guy, in fancy kit, on a fast racing bike, and as time went on fewer and fewer of them responded to my hello.
Along Marine Parade in Seatoun I heard women talking and laughing and then saw that they were swimmers, bobbing together not too far from the shore.
But there were no women on bikes at all. The only women I saw were those swimmers. I began to feel self-conscious rattling along in my sneakers and my silly mudguards.
The construction site at Shelly Bay, when I reached it, gave off some kind of dark energy. I rode along and it seemed like this dank, grey place would never end – the ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted’ signs on every fence, the huge piles of broken concrete, the few remaining buildings looking weird and barren. I wanted to get out of there in a hurry. I worried for the kororā, little blue penguins, and their lost nesting sites.
I didn’t want to go through Newtown or Hataitai to get home, because the traffic was in full roar by now, so I went round Evans Bay and along to Oriental Bay. Ever since they put all the cycle paths in, this stretch makes me nervous. Going into the city, the cycle path keeps shaking you off – you have to cross a busy road three times to get back to it, which just seems to be asking to get flattened. Then, once you reach Oriental Parade, if you don’t want to ride on the shared path with all the runners and walkers and e-scooters from hell, you have to cross over again, and – I’m embarrassed to say this but I’ll just say it – I’ve never been able to figure out how to get back onto the actual road without just hopping off and pushing my bike over the pedestrian crossing, like an animal.
I sped through town as fast as possible, regretting that I hadn’t brought a bag big enough to buy a loaf of bread. I think I saw the writer Damien Wilkins crossing the road, in the morning sunshine, but I was so hungry I could’ve been hallucinating. Rode back up to Highbury and realised my feet had gone numb and made a mental note to go back to the bike fitter.
I made it home in just under two hours, flailed about eating, then saddled up again and rode to the uni. Rode home at the end of the day, when I got snarled up in roadworks and a long, long line of idling cars.
A four-ride day. I rode to work, then to town to the physio so that I could complain about my Achilles. While I was lying there with needles in my calves, we talked about early mornings. The physio said he read a self-help book that stressed the importance of getting up early in the morning – I had this dreadful creeping suspicion that the author was Jordan Peterson – and that ever since, he had got up early in the morning and it had changed his life.
I wish I could get up early in the morning consistently. An ideal version of myself gets up at 5am just to write. Remember when the writer Amélie Nothomb, who everyone fell in love with in the 2000s, talked about her morning writing routine – she got up at something like 4am and made a pot of tea so strong that the tea was like syrup, and in an interview she said something like, ‘When I write at this time, I feel that I am a god.’
Cycled back to work up the Terrace in sweltering heat, in a dress – I do not recommend this.
After work, as I rode along Disley Street around 6pm, tired, I saw the man out practising his wheelies again, just gliding serenely up the street on one wheel. Once again, for no reason that I can articulate, this made me furious.