After a break of five days, caused by lack of time or foul weather, I took the bike out today for another short ride. The distance was only about two-and-a-half miles but that will do for now. Much of it was up long hills and down short ones – perhaps I will try it the other way round next time.
I think it was on “The Pig’s Cycling Blog” that I read about a technique for tackling hills which helped a lot today. Whereas previously I have always tried to power up hills, maintaining forward speed as far as possible and avoiding any change to a lower gear until it became absolutely necessary, the recommended technique is quite the opposite. The idea is to adopt a lower gear (and thus a quicker pedalling speed) in good time and then to maintain pedalling speed (rather than forward speed) by dropping through the gears as necessary. This avoids the really hard work that quickly leads to painful thighs and can damage knees. The other part of the technique is to relax and breathe steadily. It works for me. Today, using the new technique, I hardly noticed a hill which had almost crippled me on my first outing.
I really do not want to wear a helmet. However, I am aware of the arguments for and against. By a narrow margin, I think it is probably sensible to wear one. It also sets a good example to children who ought to wear protective gear (just as they should for skateboarding etc.) for reasons which shouldn’t apply to older or more experienced riders. Now there’s an old-fashioned idea – “setting an example” – what a shame there isn’t more of it about.
The whole idea of setting out to draw attention to myself with a silly helmet and high-visibility clothing goes very much against the grain. However, survival is the name of the game and I have to see all of this from the point of view of “the other side”, ie. drivers of motor vehicles. Most of my cycling will be done in the suburbs of a major city, Cardiff, and I think drivers have enough to cope with already, even in good light conditions, without having to find me against a background of browns, greens and greys – and that is just the quiet residential street outside my window. It gets worse in the busier areas where there are traffic lights and signs, illuminated shop windows, and other vehicles with their lights and signals among other distractions – and this is before it starts to get dark to make matters even worse.
So I have a bright yellow waistcoat with reflective white stripe that seems to work. In fact I have been impressed, from my first outing onwards, by the consideration shown by nearly all drivers. The wide berth that they have given me has almost implied that I have been wobbling about the road in a drunken fashion. Or might it have been something to do with that smart blue helmet combined with an official-looking waistcoat?
I walked for a while on one tough hill today and just pushing the bike was hard enough. Even so, the exercise is working and I am getting fitter. In nine days I have lost a few pounds and an inch off my personal equator. If I can maintain that progress for another fortnight I should be in pretty good form in time for Bike Week (June 14-22) though whether I will be able to take part remains to be seen.