I’m not a ‘proper’ cyclist, but I’ve always enjoyed cycling locally wherever I’ve lived, and we’re lucky to have the beautiful cycle path along the river here in Wivenhoe. Last February I injured my back, and the sciatica resulting from the bulging disc pressing on the sciatic nerve proved painful and restrictive. Standing up and walking relieved the pain; sitting, lying down and anything else (trying to sleep, for example) exacerbated it. Cycling was out of the question.
A year on, and on the mend, I paid for a few alterations to my bike (including replacement curved handlebars enabling me to sit up straight which puts far less pressure on my back – thanks for the ‘Dutch Bike’ idea, Annie). I’m back in the saddle again. I’m thrilled with my customised bike and am building up strength and stamina gently with small, local rides. Here’s my flash fiction telling a story through cycling, which won the Hysteria prize in 2014, one of the earliest pieces I had published:
A Brief History of Cycling
I watched the confident children cycling with envious eyes. Later, alone, I scraped my shins on a borrowed bike. Disappointing.
Small ‘stabiliser’ wheels not very stable; too small and high up. Dad jogging behind me, holding the saddle, suddenly not there. Pavement slipping by. Wind flattening my hair, tears stinging my eyes and I’m doing it!
Showing off. One hand off the handlebars. Two hands off. Slow-motion tumbling.
Scrapes, cuts, bruised pride. More careful.
Cycling in Suffolk. Others coasting up and sailing down the hills, using gears.
Effortless. Pedalling frantically to keep up, heart pounding and throat dry.
Savings squandered. Forest-green bike with gears. Beautiful. I’ll grow into it. Cycling Proficiency at school; seat too high, won’t lower. Wobbling on corners. Scraped through the test.
Old-fashioned basket for Christmas. Wanted modern plastic one like friends. Didn’t try to hide my disappointment.
Cycling everywhere – bike tours after exams. Scraped through exams. Glory and freedom on bike tour! Forest-green bike (with wicker basket) taken on train to University.
Iconic. Cycling everywhere. Glory and freedom!
Stolen. Never recovered. Deeply disappointing.
Cheap replacement bike. Plastic basket. Never stolen, though always left unlocked in hope. Disappointing.
Attaching child seats, tag-alongs. Watching my children learn. Success! Glory!
Freedom! Wind in their hair, tears in their eyes and mine.
Off-road cycling on new bike. Plastic basket and fifteen gears. (Seeking wicker basket.) Scraped by brambles, stung by nettles. Freedom!
Chasing grown-up children, pedalling frantically to keep up. Throat dry. No scrapes.
Freedom! Still glorious!
And here’s me recently, on my sister’s wonderful Dutch bike (with proper wicker basket) which inspired me to find a way to cycle again…