In the late summer of 2015 I was having, what one might call, a mini-mid-life crisis. Having given birth to my second child in the most dramatic of fashions earlier in the year, I was struck with a renewed longing to be young again. Ok, so I was only 33 at the time, but still, that felt jolly old to someone like me, who made an oath as a child to never grow up. Perhaps that’s why I have such an affinity with Peter Pan.
Anyway, Peter Pan has nothing to do with any of this. My point is that I had ‘done’ the baby bit and now wanted to recommence being young and fun again. And what was my favourite thing to do when I was young and fun? Get on my bike. I LOVED my bike; I loved the sense of freedom, the power and the adrenaline. You’ll know by now, of course, that MS stole that all away from me. But, in 2015 I wasn’t to be deterred and after a very wobbly start I managed to cycle a little way through Thetford Forest on a hired bike (I had, by this time, sold my own bike, thinking that I would never ride again). So invigorated was I that I put a new bike at the top of my birthday list, and that is precisely what I was given for my 34th birthday. By then, however, a lot had changed, I had suffered a miscarriage and lost much of my confidence, and so I relegated getting back on my bike to the bottom of my priorities, until I’d had another baby and soldiered through the inevitably tough years of bringing up 3 very young children.
Well, here I am 5 years on, living in lockdown and simply itching to get out. Walking doesn’t seem to be an option for me anymore and running is definitely out of the equation, so what have I got to lose in finally trying out my ‘new’ bike?
This morning my husband lovingly got to work preparing my bike. After years spent abandoned in the garage it needed to be oiled, pumped and de-cobwebbed before I could even attempt to clamber on (no easy feat when your legs are as stiff and heavy as mine!)
There it stood, gleaming on the driveway, eagerly awaiting its chance to finally stretch its wheels. I gingerly approached the seat, which was being held steady by my hubby’s safe hands; he wasn’t going to let go, this ride was to be as carefully executed as my dear little kiddywinks’ first daring attempts at riding their own bikes. And I felt like a child, standing next to this monstrous grown-up bike that towered intimidatingly over me. How was I ever going to get my leg over that bar? Luckily, there was no-one around to witness the resulting song and dance, well, I say no-one – our neighbour was out on his drive, washing his car as he does every Sunday, but he seemed far too engrossed in his work to be interested in watching my exploits.
Once on the seat, I wobbled unsteadily and tried to compose myself. The bike felt alien to me. How did I ever manage to ride one of these things? I longed for the familiarity of my old Raleigh, or rather I longed for the body that used to be able to ride my old Raleigh.
We did a few tentative moves, with my husband holding on, I lifted my feet off the ground and let the wheels carry me slowly across the drive. It was soon time to master the pedals, but my jelly legs resisted, and it took me a while to gain enough composure to trust myself. Within a few minutes, and with my husband by my side, I managed to ride a yard or two independently and I suddenly felt confident enough to cycle a short way up the path on my own. But, or course, I hadn’t factored in the more recent damage done to my left leg following my latest relapse, which has left it terribly weak and unreliable. As I pedalled, I noticed that my right leg was doing all the work, a most strange sensation and one that I suppose I shall have to get used to, much like I got used to driving a car with numb feet.
I stopped cycling and very slowly inched the bike around with the intention of cycling back to my house, but my left leg just froze on me and I was stuck, desperately trying not to lose my balance. I was in serious danger of falling to the ground, legs twisted, lying helpless beneath the weight of my ginormous grown-up bike. I called for help. My husband could see I was struggling, after all, I had only ventured a few yards, and now he could hear my calls getting more and more urgent as I realised that I wasn’t going to keep myself steady for much longer. Finally rescued by my knight in shining armour, I shuffled back to the house holding tightly onto his arm.
I felt awfully weak after my ‘bike ride’, but I shall persevere, taking it slow, and who knows, I may soon be giving the likes of Kadeena Cox a run for her money!