I’d waited over month for my Cycle2work voucher, and spent almost as much time reading bike information and reviews on the Halfords website. I’d chosen safety equipment and the perfect bike seat for Lebs (find out how I made my final decision on my bike here). Yet my first time on a bike since I was around 7 years old was still a bit of a disaster.
Firstly, the bike decided to be fashionably late. I’d been to the store, and had an informed chat with a young man by the name of Lance on a sunny and quiet Monday morning. He helped me to order most of the things I’d researched and suggested solid replacements for the things he could not and I arranged to pick up the bike on Wednesday (my day off work). I figured that I might be able to dispatch Lebs to a relative whilst I collect and walk the bike home – possibly even having a little ride if I was feeling brave.
All of the stuff turned up to store the following day but the bike did not. Actually, the bike which was ordered never arrived at Brixton Halfords and lovely Lance collected one from Balham instead (I never established if it was still built from the box or taken from a display there – ignorance is bliss).
This meant that I now only had a Sunday, my other day off to collect my new bike. I had no childcare. I explained to Lebs what I wanted to do and he was very excited – he loves anything with wheels at the moment – so off we went together with him clutching his blue helmet to collect the new bike.
I got to the store to find that being Sunday, there was no Lance. My heart immediately sank when I was greeted by a friendly young man (young and high pitched enough to make me feel old even though I’m not quite thirty). He was polite but it quickly became clear that he knew almost as much about bikes as me, and on that day I could write all my knowledge about bikes on the back of a postage stamp. Besides advising me with well rehearsed speech on what lock I should buy and fitting the bottle cage to the bike there was little point asking him anything else. The poor guy had no idea how to process the cycle2work voucher and whilst I was trying to be as sympathetic and patient as possible, Lebs was not and started to jump on the floor, make loud protests and ask every innocent customer who should pass him what they were looking at.
Next, there was no where adequate to rest the bike before putting Lebs into his bike seat. It was leaned awkwardly against the corner of the display. It took the two of us to put him into the seat and figure out how to adjust the straps. The young man could not give me any assistance when I inquired as to if and how the child seat could be removed for solo rides. Now I WAS beginning to get impatient.
Then I was told goodbye (a little too enthusiastically I thought) and attempted to leave. I say attempted because I had no idea that the weight of Lebs would affect how I moved the bike so dramatically. I tried to turn the bike and nearly dropped Lebs on the floor. He found it hilariously funny and the assistant tried to help me through the narrow aisle but it quickly became clear that this would be counter productive. He knocked the bike and one of the pedals spun and bit into my leg. So, red faced and in pain, I grunted something like ‘I’ve got to learn to do this anyway’ and wheeled Lebs very unsteadily out of the shop myself. All the staff that hadn’t been around before suddenly appeared to be there staring at me like the stupidest creature that ever hit the earth.
It wasn’t until one of my cycling enthusiast pals looked over my new bike a few days later that I found it should have been fitted for me. It hadn’t even occurred to me! I assumed it was the same as how I shop for clothes. I know my size, I see something I like, I find the said size and purchase. I’m straight forward that way. On a previous chat with Lance we had decided that an 18″ bike was the correct size for my height and I assumed that’s all there was to it. My pal has since made some minor adjustments such as raising the saddle and lowering the breaks and now my bike is so much more comfortable.
I live about 1.8 miles from Brixton Halfords. It’s a 40 minute walk over Tulse Hill that I’m very used to performing with ease. It was a cold, grey day and I was dressed in layers with a long coat. I had thought that I could walk the bike back with Lebs on it but within a few steps it was clear that if Lebs was in his seat, I needed to be on my seat too. So nervously I got on, almost tangling myself up in my coat doing so, and started to pedal. I assumed that I would be the first person ever to forget how to ride a bike but after one clumsy attempt (I was a bit nervous of the pedal hitting my leg again), I was off! When I say off, I mean wobbly on the pavement off, not cruising down the main road as I had envisioned. However Lebs began to whoop with joy and sing and I, pleasantly surprised by how smooth and fast this mode of transport was compared to walking, couldn’t help smiling.
Still, I was dressed totally wrong. I was dressed for a slow walk on a cold day. Not trying to pedal uphill with weak legs and a few stones of weight on the back! I had it in my head I would sort of look like this:
But after a few feet without any stretching or other preparation I was more like this:
Cheesy but true. I had NO idea what hot thirsty work it is on the pedals.
Anyway I made it home in one piece thank God, after stopping 3 times for breath, cursing the terrible quality of the roads more times then I care to remember and also having some real cyclists shout things like ‘Oi oi wobbler!’ laughingly as I passed.
Then I had to hoist the bike up a flight of stairs to my flat with the seat still on the back (as it turns out the seat can come off so easily even I can do it). I have to turn a tight corner at the top step between my neighbors door in the hallway and my inside balcony. I have to hold the bike vertically on its back wheel to get up the stairs. It’s 11.5kg I believe but with the bike seat and adapter attached it is somewhat heavier. Up until this point the heaviest thing I was accustomed to picking up was Lebs so you can imagine how much I struggled up the stairs. It wasn’t until I was halfway up the stairs that it dawned on me that I should have take Lebs out of the seat first… No I’m just kidding about the last part.
Anyway at the top step I think I hit my neighbors door with both handle bars, the saddle and the child seat quite hard. I really hope he wasn’t in at the time. I thought the bike would fit on the balcony just outside my front door but with the flat bar it would block the door and become a hazard. My managers words were ringing in my ears. Could I seriously be bothered with this palaver every time I wanted to ride? I dumped it in the hallway inside temporarily and flopped down on the sofa.
Being a modern girl, I logged straight into Facebook before I even took a drink. I decided I quite like the burning jelly sensation setting in around my legs and stomach and wanted to do this again! So maybe it wasn’t so much of a disaster after all.