Sunday, April 11, 2010

Musings on Midlife Madness - my Brand-new Birthday Bike

I just had to share this with you - I got a lovely new bike yesterday from hubby Jan as a belated birthday present - a sort of midlife milestone that doesn't end in zero but momentous nonetheless. As it's nearly thirty years since my last bike was stolen from the house in Drumcondra we shared with my mother before we went to Tanzania, it was not before time for a replacement. I was a bit like Flann O'Brien's Third Policeman in that my bike and myself were so unified it was hard to tell where where one ended and the other began and there was probably an atomic exchange between us. It took me to work in every hospital in Dublin when I did agency nursing in the years before and after my Bangladesh sojourn.


Suffice to say that wherever I went, like Mary's little lamb, the bike was sure to go. I say "bike" advisedly, as a generic term, as I nearly went through more bikes over the nine-year period when I lived in Dublin (with two years off for good behaviour that I spent volunteering in Bangladesh with Concern, where I met Jan) than the proverbial hot dinners I may have had. Through the mid-1970s I lived in the heartland of Dublin flatland, Rathmines where it was always open season for bike thieves. The chances of having your bike nicked from the railings of your own or a friend's flat were pretty high that no self-respecting gambler would take bets on the bike's chances of survival. Kevin Street Garda Station had regular auctions of bikes that had been stolen, abandoned or recovered and unclaimed, and a £10 or £20 bargain could be had for the canny cyclist.

There was a whole culture around cycling in Dublin in those pre-Celtic Tiger days - everyone cycled, no-one had a car (students or young Civil Servants or nurses) and the buses were never going where you wanted to go. This was generally from one suburb to another on the Southside, but all the bus routes worked on a hub and spokes basis (no pun intended!) - with the City Centre (An Lár) as the hub and the routes to the suburbs radiating out as spokes - which added cost and hours to a journey of maybe a few minutes by bike, as you had to go everywhere off the bus route via the City Centre.


The first intimation I had on the demise of the bike as an essential mode of transport was when I returned to Ireland in 1980 from Bangladesh, took up the two wheels again to traverse the city when I started agency nursing,and realised every nurse in Ireland seemed to be driving a car. Even though the 80s is generally decried as the decade of the first recession, it heralded a shift for the bike's place in Dublin society as far as I was concerned, and when I left the country in early 1982 for the next 16 years, I had resigned myself to a four-wheel future.


So now the two wheels have come full circle - bikes are eco-friendly, recession-proof, and more popular than ever - and I am delighted with my new bike. We chose it yesterday from a small specialist bike shop in Fermoy, after looking at a big chain store (another unintentional pun?) where we felt the spotty youth didn't really seem to care whether we bought or not and certainly wasn't offering much in the way of service or information. The other shop had a different take on customer service - I got to ride a few bikes up and down the street, the pros and cons were detailed, my dumb questions about gears and ratios and different types of bikes were patiently and unpatronisingly answered, and I felt they weren't just about selling the dearest bike but more about what I wanted from a bike - not a mountain bike, not a "High Nelly", but something in-between.
I ended up with this lovely bright red Kelly's Kappa Hybrid bike which has a nice gel seat (minimising the numb bum effect!) and 21 gears with 3x7 speeds. As my last bike had 3 gears (a nice Raleigh Tourer) and was a High Nelly for the 80s, I am having great fun playing with all the gears on this one. Yesterday I went for a short 3mile spin and today Jan and me went for a longer haul - 15km on fairly level ground in a circuit that took us home along the beautiful Blackwater river. Never mind gel seats - I had the original jelly legs and an extremely numb bum on arriving home! I'm assured this will get better as time goes by - Jan had already cycled 93km on his racer earlier today so this spin with me was like a cool-down for him. In fact a classy new racer is top of his wish-list and will be fulfilled for his upcoming significant birthday next month!

Those of you who've been following my blog for a while will remember my post on Jan's 100km charity Seán Kelly cycle last August, and know he's a seasoned cycling enthusiast. He's already signed up for the 2010 Seán Kelly Tour of Waterford, and suggested I do the 50km "starter" circuit! Right now that seems way beyond my capability so I will have to review that in a few months and see if the quads and hamstrings are bearing up - on the plus side I envisage the cellulite falling off and the coveted size 12 regained in no time - the old mantra of "No Pain, No Gain" never seemed truer than now.

Watch this space for occasional progress reports as I will be shamed into keeping up the good work if I blog about it from time to time, so all encouragement will be welcome!

18 comments:

Stephanie V said...

You certainly have mine...just keep those puns coming.
We re-stocked ourselves with bikes a couple of years ago. I wish I could say they are a primary mode of transportation but we live on the foothill of a mountain. Walking is far easier.
The gel seat - an absolute must!

Edie said...

Love your bike! My daughter just got a bike and suggested I get one too but since it's been forever (okay, 32 years) since I last rode a bike, I'm a little reluctant (lol). I can't wait to hear about your new adventures with your bike.

Jeanne said...

Love the bike Catherine, it suits you perfectly! One of the things I have noticed while living in Surrey these few months is people's affinity with bikes. They seem to be the favoured mode of transportation around town by one and all. Kiwi's (New Zealand) are big bike enthusiasts and I rarely saw one that looked like your beautiful new bike. They rode in packs (as they do here as well) and it was all about racing and covering distance. I love the thought that you can still pop on a bike and go up the road or into town. I still can not get use to the idea that people do not wear bike helmets but that is their choice. What I want to know is if you are going to pop a basket on that beauty?
Jeanne :)

mise said...

That's a grand bike. I used to cycle all round Dublin too but the lorries were scary. So I left.

Lynda said...

Happy belated birthday - what a wonderful birthday present ... you'll be back in your size 12's before you know it ... and if you pedal for long enough - maybe even a size Zero ?!?! LOL :)

Menopausal musing said...

Now, I never learn't to ride a bike, 'tis on my list of "Things To Do"...............

Ann said...

Hi Catherine, Funny that, I took out my new bike, an early birthday present from the husband for a spin Sunday. A beautiful sunny Sunday here. Great fun isn't it!?!

I didn't cycle around Dublin in my day, I walked everywhere. Didn't have the patience to stand waiting at bus stops!

Have a wonderful Monday.

jeannette said...

It's okay Catherine:) I call midlife my second childhood where we finally get or get to do all the fun things that were left undone in our first -yay -I want it to last forever!

niamh said...

Goodness - when did 50 km become a starter route?! Funny! It looks like a great bike, good shopping. I prefer buying things in smaller places too, especially when the staff are friendly and you feel like your money is going somewhere useful. I still haven't rented one of the Dublin Bikes but maybe now that summer is here?!

Catherine said...

Thanks for all the supportive comments, it really makes blogging fun!

STEPHANIE V - yes I agree about the Gel cushion - hubby tried to get me one today but they are not in stock! I am quite saddle sore but that will pass! I see your point about being at the foot of a mountain - our ones are about 8 miles to the north - Jan loves them! Glad you like the puns - really were unintentional!

Catherine said...

EDIE - I was about 29 years from having cycled so no worries about the long gap. I have just been for a few rides around town and it is getting easier every day! I go for a spin after work and dinner and then try to be home before dark as there's no lights on the thing! So get on your bike sunshine!

Catherine said...

JEANNE - thanks for that - I love the bike even though I balked at the bright red colour as being a bit too much - now I love it! And yes I do wear a helmet even though I end up with "helmet hair" plastered down! So the Kiwis are big into road racing and that is very popular in mainland Europe rather than here but it is getting more so here now - after all Sean Kelly is a famous Irish cyclist and Stephen Roche won the Tour de France in 1987. Hubby loves racing and he has to wait for me when we're out on the road together. I can picture the Surrey cyclists all pootling around the towns! No I think I'd be shot if I popped a basket on this beauty - the purists in the house would be horrified! Not a basket but I might succumb to a carrier!

Catherine said...

MISE - I know what you mean about the lorries - I cycled there in the 70s and early 80s and the traffic wasn't as bad as later. I don't recall any fatalities and in recent years there have been a number. So maybe there is sense in not cycling in the city without decent lanes, though with the Dublin bikes things may improve. I have yet to try one out there!

Catherine said...

LYNDA - Thanks for the birthday greetings - I will try to aim for the 12, but not the zero! I am thoroughly enjoying it now. great fun. It's even eating into blogging time but that can't be bad with the nice stretch in the evenings - one of the things you don't really have in Tz so near the equator with days the same length all year round! Keep well, and I'll drop over to your blog soon again!

Catherine said...

MENOPAUSAL MUSINGS - never too late to learn to ride a bike - easy as falling off a log! And once you get the balance right you'll wonder how you got this far without it- it's good fun! Hope you continue to enjoy the blog. Keep in touch!

Catherine said...

ANN - what a coincidence you getting a new bike too! I hope you and hubby have fun with them! I am tentative as yet as I have to overcome the saddle soreness! But it is nice to just go for a few miles around the town and by roads in the evening. As for Dublin, I hadn't the patience for buses either but went everywhere by bike-even the wrong way down one-way streets! It's a lot more dangerous nowadays, despite (or because of) the cycle lanes that end abruptly in mid-junction! Happy days cycling - we're having lovely weather here now!

Catherine said...

JEANNETTE - yes they are pretty right when they say fifty (plus?) is the new forty! And it's time to re-do all the things we did when we were younger and enjoy the satisfaction at being actually able to do them! I am pleased at my cycling stamina so far. No muscle aches, bar saddle sore! I might even take up painting when I retire!

Catherine said...

NIAMH - good to see you commenting - I feel like it's ages since I read your blog so I must be having a guilt trip- and I haven't ridden one of the Dublin bikes though they look cool! I saw lots in Barcelona last summer, I hope they move to Cork too and other cities, it's a great idea. Yes it is nice to support the small shops that are so good when they specialise in something so well. Hubby got his birthday pressie today - the new racer - and it's also bright red!! I feel like we're like those old marrieds who wear matching jumpers - matching bikes!