Scoville Units Unite

29 Aug

Memories of Cycling

Commuting to work has rekindled some memories of exactly how much cycling I did as a kid.

Moving to new house

Some of my earliest memories are being in our first home aged about 2 or 3. I can remember us moving to our new house (where my parents still stay) when I was four, and me going there by some kind of pedal powered device. Whether it was a tricycle or toy car type thing I can’t remember, but I do remember moving in it.

First proper bike

My first proper bike, where I had stabilisers removed was something similar to the Raleigh Street Wolf. I can’t remember if it was this or not, but searching for ’80s bikes with electronic sound effects on them keep coming up with that. The year of 1987 is probably right for me getting a bike at about 6 too. Digging out old stories/diaries from primary school work (yes I still have loads of it in the attic) might reveal the bike, or asking the parents.

After school the bike used to be used for quick transport to friends and back, I remember jumping up over the lowered pavements at edge of the road thinking I was a BMXer at about 7 or 8 and the fun you had of living up a road with a big slope in it. I also remember building wee ramps in the square and loads of us having races round it, loving especially the 45degree/135degree turn at one end as a short-cut over the two 90degree turns favoured by the wusses (and losers of races).

First mountain bike

Later on at about the age of 10 I got a mountain bike of some description. I used this until I was about 15 and then after it lay in the shed for years it was gifted to a neighbours kid to use.

Reading this blogpost reminded me of an incident on that bike at about the age of 11 or Primary 6. I was out cycling around Balbeggie with I think my dad, a sister (don’t know which) and uncle. We had went for a route round the park and the surrounding areas. A quick look at Google Maps makes it look at a decent 4 mile route or so. On the way back we were tearing down the side of a farmers field near St Martins. I was in the lead and underneath the shrubbery/stalks was an old gate. I hit the gate and went head first over the handlebars landing on it. Everything seemed alright, right elbow was a bit sore where I landed.

Got back on my bike, dusted myself down and we headed back to my grans house. Later we get home and I was kneeling on the living room floor reading some comics. My younger sister came past and accidentally kneed me in the elbow. I howled in pain and it swelled right up.

A trip to the A&E showed it to be a fractured elbow. I had it in a sling for a week or two after that.

Cycling as a mode of transport

With that bike I also remember taking my Cycling Proficiency Test which was probably what gave me the confidence to go out on some roads on my own at that age. My younger sister and I used to cycle up and around Clatto Park on the bikes some evenings and days during the summer holidays. I also remember going up there with a backpack full of toy weapons with friends to play commandos on the bikes at about 11 or so. I can’t remember taking solo trips much further than that but with dad and younger sister used to go through Templeton Woods and Camperdown before returning home (fun dodging the glue sniffers in Templeton). as well as trips up to Clatto, round Downfield Golf Course, through Templeton and back home.

Mountain bike for commuting

In January 2009 I bought a mountain bike with the intention of commuting to and from work in it after building up some fitness again. I did go out on rides in it but never actually commuted on it. There were a number of reasons for this – work not moving office away from the Forfar Road when expected being the main one. When the eventually did, I hadn’t built up fitness/confidence on bike enough to do so. A number of reasons then conspired to keep me off the bike for the next couple of summers – being away almost every weekend for various reasons, shitty weather when I was here and of course laziness.

I did, of course, break it in with a cycle round Clatto.

Buying a hybrid?

When I eventually bought a bike as an adult I had thought I wanted a hybrid but settled on a mountain bike. When I read about Bike Boost and work were considering it I popped out on the mountain bike to try the route to work. Got to the peak of the hard bit of the route and gave up, thinking bloody hell – I’ll save it for the hybrid.

When I got the bike through the scheme it was a lot of fun. I didn’t have the confidence at first to cycle in to work first thing with the extra weight of spare clothes etc without trialling it. When I realised it was 4 days and I hadn’t used the bike I just said sod it and rode in. Bloody hell what a revelation.

My normal commute was walk 5 minutes to bus stop, wait 10 minutes for bus (depending on which I get) sit on bus for 15 minutes, walk 2 minutes to work. Total time 32 minutes.

The first time I cycled in it took me 25 minutes. I felt tired, needed to stop a few times for water and to get used to using the gears etc. Getting home took 30 minutes, as I walked up a steep brae when I hit an energy wall through not using correct gear.

Later it took me 25 home and 20 into work depending on traffic at a couple of spots. I have slightly refined the route now. I am still a bit wary of a couple of spots where the traffic is heavy and the pavements are very wide so resort to slowly cycling on pavement there (it connects a core path to a cycle lane so I don’t feel so bad, a very short part of about 20ft is labelled as cycle path too which is weird. I may email councillors to enquire about it being made a core path too). The place I have had the most trouble with traffic though is the roundabout next to work. Blind corner with shrubbery around it and cars just zoom through without stopping. On the way home you have busses up your arse and have to jump on pavement early or do a slam of breaks and 90degree turn into a pavement barrier to get onto the shared cycle path route home.

On a number of the days it was raining on the way home so I just carried on. One morning it was torrential rain so I just said sod it and chucked on my coat and cycled in. Does that mean I no longer count as a fair weather cyclist. So far since the day I chose to start commuting I have only travelled in by bus one day – and that was because I had been picked up the night before by car, going by bike every other day.

It’s now coming to the end of the scheme and I intend to buy the bike at the cheap offer and carry on cycling. I will probably stop when it is horrendous rain or when we get heavy snow but will hopefully get some decent winter clothes with money saved from bus fares. I am considering creating a savings account and just transferring bus money into it but know it would turn into the Bicycle Fund, so am not sure that’s the best idea.

Future biking

I have considered doing the Cyclathon but am not sure it’s the best idea to attempt 26miles having managed 2.5miles at most in one go. Admittedly uphill, but still. I have put the feelers out and know someone who might consider it so might have someone to go round it with.

So far all my bikes have been flat bars. I remember trying a racer when I was an early teen and found it uncomfortable, but I’m not sure if it was just a poor fit and that’s why I didn’t take to it. I have also read about Fixed Gear Single Speed stuff but advocates don’t come across well and they seem more suited to less hilly terrain than Dundee.

I also haven’t cycled up to the parents from my house or work so that’s something I should do whilst it’s still light at night or when I have a free weekend. Crossing the Kingsway is daunting though, but I should be able to stick to Core Paths for trip one anyway.

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