My experiences with motorised transport have been somewhat mixed of late. What I had imagined as a pleasant, sunny weekend popping to Montpellier in the south of France to watch Lee play in the Heineken Cup semi-final, turned into an epic coach journey, traffic-cursed and plagued with sleet, snow, drizzle and ‘les travaux’. The only thing that provided a sunny disposition was the happy result.
Meanwhile, in the car in Wales, the problem wasn’t so much clouds, but my head being in them. Driving to the studios, my seatbelt warning signal kept pinging at me. It was intermittent as if there were a fault, rather than repetitive, as if someone were not strapped in. Irritated, I assumed it needed fixing. Then the penny dropped – or should I say the bag. Yes, my overloaded handbag, was overloading the passenger seat. So bulging was it, that the car thought it might be a small passenger. I felt silly. But it did create some office laughs.
So, rather disillusioned with the kind of travel we have to undertake to get us from A to B in the shortest amount of time, I decided to delve into the sort which we choose do for leisure and at our own pace. After 17 years, I got back on a bike. Not a spin bike. A real bike that moves. Outdoors. And, before you ask, thankfully the old adage is true.
I certainly don’t claim to be a trailblazer here. I am, I realise, a relative latecomer to the revival of two-wheel transportation as a hobby. The majority of recent converts joined the movement post Tour De France and Olympics success. But I have always found my excuses. Four-wheeled juggernauts cutting me up on the roads, lycra, helmet hair and no sat nav to name a few. Plus unlike a coach, there’s no roof to shelter from the sleet, snow and drizzle and unlike a car, you cannot carry with you everything but the kitchen sink should you need it.
So, you could say my friend and I ventured out full of pessimistic optimistic, particularly considering a less than perfect forecast. Nevertheless, armed with map, mobile and emergency mascara, we collected our borrowed bikes – and we hit the trails. First the Taff, then the Bay, then the Ely.
What we got in return for our outward bound pursuit was a view of the city we had never taken the time to see before. There was no pressure to step up those revs to get anywhere, so we just meandered our way along the waters. We paused to watch the kayakers and rafters at the white water centre and we made a bacon sandwich pitstop at the Pumping Station antiques centre. There was no time limit. No deadline to meet. So, we browsed the store’s eclectic mix of collectables from limited edition china Charles and Di china to retro corded telephones and eighties vintage clothing. It was a flashback to my childhood. Much like the cycling.
The novelty of nostalgia and the distraction of people-watching all made it feel like very easy exercise. Two wheels were certainly winning me over. But it wasn’t all poetry in motion. Our naivety hadn’t bargained for the wind chill factor or the saddle sore. And we could have done with windscreen wipers for our rose-tinted sunglasses when the showers inevitably made an entrance. But, on balance, the end result was two people googling the best bike deals and planning on signing up to the cycling fraternity.
And, in case you’re wondering, yes I did take a bag, albeit a small one. But, thankfully, on my bike there was only one bell sounding and I was the one in charge of ringing it.