These days, most of the riding I do is about getting from A to B (where A is home, and B is usually work) as quickly and cheaply as possible. But once upon a time I used to ride my bike for fun. I would take my bike out on the weekends and I’d head out – sometimes with a destination in mind, other times not – and just enjoy the experience of being out on two wheels.
Most of these rides were done with my ex-boyfriend, a fellow cyclist. Usually we’d cycle north through London – past street after street of houses, shops and offices and past the traffic clogged roads – until we reached the edge of the city. Urban dreariness would give way to…well, I wouldn’t quite call it rural wilderness. We were only in Hertfordshire, after all. But, for those (like me) who don’t get out much, it’s surprising how short a distance you need to travel before you reach open fields, country lanes and woodland.
Most of the time we’d ride until our legs gave out, or until we’d found a likely looking pub to stop for a drink. In our travels we stopped at various different watering holes, most of which could be described as ‘quaint’ – pubs with resident chickens, old Tudor pubs with doorways so small even I had to duck to go through them, and pubs with beer gardens so big you could fit the average sized London flat many times over into them. Usually we’d only aim to stop for one – but cycling is thirsty work, so one would often became two which would become three…after which we’d have to walk our bikes to the nearest train station and take the easy way home.
I haven’t been out on a ride like that for years. I haven’t wanted to. Whenever I do think about it – which isn’t often – I tell myself there are very good reasons why I don’t want to go out on long bike rides.
For starters there’s the weather. I get thoroughly drenched, blown about or half frozen enough during the week – why would I want to go out at the weekend for more?
And then there’s the amount of cycling I do already. On a normal weekday I cycle the best part of 20 miles to and from work, across north London. More if I’m going out in the evening. So, frankly, if I get to the weekend and my legs feel like they need a rest I’m not surprised.
Lately, though, I’ve noticed my legs feel like they need a rest almost all the time. I’ve been waking up tired even after a good night’s sleep. And if – as was normally the case – I haven’t had a good night’s sleep I wake up feeling like I’ve been steamrollered to the bed. After attempting to convince myself that this was because I’m doing too much, or that I’m getting older and I just can’t do what I used to any more, or that maybe I should cut down on the cycling, I finally decided I’d had enough. This can’t be normal, can it?
No, actually, it isn’t. I went to see my GP and she ran some blood tests that revealed I was deficient in both vitamin D and folic acid – both of which can cause tiredness. I was sent away with prescriptions for supplements of both, which I’ve been popping religiously since then.
The question is, have they made a difference?
I was in Bristol over the weekend, visiting a friend. We stood by the Clifton suspension bridge, looking down at the Avon Gorge below, when I spotted some cyclists down there. I asked my friend if there was a bike path – and she said there was, all the way to Bath. With those words, I immediately hatched a plan to bring my bike with me the next time I visited.
So yes, I think they’ve made a difference.