It was a week of such average rides that I thought I wouldn’t write a cycling week this week. I felt like I hadn’t earned one. But then I thought, an average ride is still a ride. So let’s go, slowly and with trepidation.
Today was a public holiday so I rode into town to write in a cafe. It’s not cycling, but let’s talk about writing in cafes. At surface it seems like such a joy. Writing – but in a cafe! Twenty years ago, I used to do it a lot. I loved getting a pot of tea for two, which you could spin out for ages, and writing at a small table. Usually in a notebook and later (towards something like 2008ish) on a laptop. Especially in the late afternoon, and especially in the library cafe, which doesn’t exist anymore but which was excellent for people-watching and for feeling a part of things while being slightly apart. But I can’t enjoy writing in a cafe in the same way now. I wonder if it’s because my sense of time passing has changed so much. There’s just less of everything. Today I drank coffee, managed a few sentences, and spent the rest of the time realising how shockingly bad everything I had written up until this point in my life was. A sense of doom descended on me. It was all over. I cycled back home, slowly in the heat, and tried to write there (which didn’t work either).
Wondered about doing a big ride today, but I overdid my riding on the weekend, with big rides on both Saturday and Sunday, so today was better kept a small ride day.
Rode to uni in morning. Aching heat. Had what felt like a really close call with a sudden swooping kākā on Moana Rd.
Afterwards I rode into town and – despite everything I said about yesterday – tried to write in a goddamn cafe. This time I almost cracked it. At least, I wrote some sentences that I didn’t delete. (I deleted them later, but having something to delete is better than having nothing.) After that, I rode to the pub to meet friends. This is my favourite sort of ride. I love the moment when I am locking my bike up outside. My friend James arrived drenched in sweat from his bike ride too. It is always validating to see fellow cyclists engaged in the battle of sweat vs daily life.
Recently I bought some new cycling gloves. My old ones had huge holes in them. The new ones are fingerless, and on the palms they have these pad things filled with gel. ‘It’s a great choice for riders seeking a classic short finger glove paired with the comfort and cushioning of gel,’ says the brand, Giro. I never imagined that one day, I, too, would be one of these riders – these seekers of a classic short-finger glove paired with the comfort and cushioning of gel. But I am! Or I was. I have found what I was looking for.
Cycled home early evening. I have to be honest that I’m feeling deranged this week. Apart from my newly comfortable gel hands, I’m not enjoying my rides.
A sweaty ride to work. A truck passed me too closely on Raroa and I did a noodly wave of irritation. I think I’ve said this before, or something similar before – I always have a sense that something is wrong when I feel a bit disembodied on the bike. It’s like the rest of the world is moving at speed but I’m not going anywhere, like I’m a big rock in a river. The ride home felt dark and bleary. No sense of connection with my legs.
Sometimes you just want a ride to be over. You have to bargain with yourself to get through it. I play a game with myself: Just reach this next signpost, then if you really can’t go on, you can hop off and walk. I keep doing this with various short-range targets until I’m nearly home. It helps distract (a bit) from the pain of the uphill. My friend Susan says that the trick to going up hills is: never stop. You must keep going at all costs. If you stop, it’s incredibly hard to start again. This is a good general approach to hills, I think. But sometimes you really do need or just want to stop. (Now, I’m not saying I stopped today – but I could’ve! And it would have been fine. Sometimes stopping for a few moments feels like a celebration. There’s just nothing like the good feeling of properly catching your breath.)
Rode to uni after a long morning walk up steep hills in an attempt to shake off the mood. But the mood – even though I saw some good things on the walk, like a quail running along the top of a fence, and a few dogs on morning walks – just bedded in. Usually, any kind of exercise, and especially riding my bike, helps me to feel better, or at least on an even keel. That’s why I try to do quite a lot of it and why I like to do Big Rides especially – the effect lasts for longer. But sometimes it doesn’t work and you just have to get through. I feel like I have a very small headlamp on in the dark and can only deal with things directly in front of me.
The week ended in disgrace. I rode to work, and I rode to town in the middle of the day, but then I couldn’t bring myself to ride home in the rain. So I didn’t ride home! I just left my bike at work to collect on the weekend. A bad end to the week.
Actually, I feel better for having recorded these rides, small and average as they were. Pedal on everyone.