Cycling week

This might be the least action-packed cycling week so far.


A blustery ride to work. Lately, in the mornings, I’ve been noticing sparrows: today on Mt Pleasant there was one fluttering about that didn’t move until I shooed it, and then on Glasgow at the intersection there was one having a great time pecking at something on the road. I will always stop for a bird. But these birds are not very street-smart. NZ Birds Online tells me sparrows lay eggs between September and early February, so maybe these are young sparrows still getting their bearings. (One thing I had not known: in NZ the average clutch for sparrows is just under four eggs, and there can be up to four clutches a year, but usually less than half of those eggs make it out alive.)

Rode home from the gym around 6.30pm. This was brainless: the gale-force winds were forecast to blast through the city at exactly that time. But as I crept out and looked around, I saw it was eerily calm. The trees outside the gym were barely moving. Maybe the window of calm would last for another twenty minutes. So I set off. The roads were quiet. A feeling of hunkering down was all around.


There’s a saying among cyclists on days like today, when the wind is ferociously strong: ‘Only a madman would cycle in this.’ (I might be making this up, that it’s a saying among cyclists. Maybe I have just said it to myself a few times.) But I still considered riding today – how bad could it be, really? Then I remembered that even motorcyclists were being advised not to ride, and gave myself a talking-to and set off on foot. Walking! What a drag.


A slow rainy slog up Raroa in the morning. Close-passed by a truck full of gas canisters. It’s funny how often the worst close passes are by trucks full of deadly objects, or cars pulling long trailers full of deadly objects.

Today: good news. I received the gift of new bike lights – front and rear! A literary agent named Martin was in town, and in a gesture of almost unhinged generosity, gave me bike lights. The bike lights, from Germany, look heavy-duty. I was delighted and also I think this marks an important milestone in the evolution of this blog: it is beginning to generate gifts. My plan is working. A review of the bike lights is forthcoming.

Rode home into greyish windy evening. About halfway along, I got the familiar itchy tingle in my teeth and hands, and I realised I was about to have a blood sugar crash. It happened quickly: I turned noodly, sweaty, woolly-brained. Low-blood-sugar sweat is weird: it’s cold and watery and all of a sudden you’re drenched, like you’ve been sprayed with a garden hose. I also get the feeling that I’m shrinking, shrivelling up. Progress up the hill was slow, zeroing in on the patch of road in front of me. At last I got home. Staggered through doorway and towards the pantry, as Jerry screamed mercilessly at me for Fancy Feast.


Lashed by rain on the ride in; lashed by wind on the ride home. Sparrows scattering. Saw a very old little dog, white whiskery snout, trotting along haphazardly, about ten steps to its owner’s two. I’ve been thinking a lot about dogs and cats this week, stranded on rooftops and patches of higher ground. And cows and sheep too. I saw a video of a small herd of cows swimming through deep floodwaters in central Hawke’s Bay as a woman called out to them, ‘Come on girls, come here.’


A morning ride, pushed along by a damp southerly. Last night I went into town for a book launch, and considered riding, because the weather was clearing, but in the end I took the bus. Then I had Bus Regret: the weather was 100% rideable after all. But at the launch I talked to my friend James about the problems of cycling to evening events from home, because he too had taken the bus. He said something like, ‘It’s too hard to cycle and then look like a human being.’ I said something like, ‘After all this time, I haven’t figured out how to streamline it,’ and he exclaimed, ‘You can’t!’ Of course, for all that we fight it, it’s true: for the everyday cyclist, there is no real streamlining to be had. Far more often than you would like, you will end up standing on your own shoes in a public toilet, trying to get changed while avoiding touching any surface. There is no dignity.

Rode home into the mouth of the southerly. Energy fading. As I rode I thought maybe I should try out the Arepa brain pills again. I wrote about these last year and my brief experience with nootropics more generally – one of the best things about the Arepa ones was that they seemed to give me more energy. But they’re also wildly expensive. There must be a better way to feel less like a ragged husk, I thought pitifully as I gasped up Highbury Rd.

Once home I realised my rear tyre was flat, and probably had been flat all week; that’s why the ride was hard.

So, zero big rides, minimal small rides. But: sparrows, being safe and dry, and new bike lights.

About ashleighlou

Person, usually on bike
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