Keeping the Legs Turning

I’ve been off my bike for a little while because of various reasons, and so it was with some trepidation that I sallied forth this morning on the old rusty stead. But boy was I glad I made the effort!

I managed a pretty decent 6 3/4 miles today in just under 50 minutes, at an average speed of 8 mph. Now, that might not sound a lot to anyone out there who’s relatively sporty or even halfway to being fit, but for someone like me who is quite a bit overweight and still suffering the affects of covid on top of fibromyalgia, torn tendons in my arms and a couple of other ligament and nerve damages going on, that is quite an achievement. This time yesterday I couldn’t have even dreamed of getting on my bike, so to get into my shorts first thing was an achievement in itself. With any chronic pain condition sometimes just getting out of bed and having a shower can feel like climbing Everest, so my little ride today is quite the achievement really.

I say that I set off with trepidation, but to be fair, it wasn’t because I wasn’t sure my body would hold up or not, but whether or not my bike would. It’s getting on a bit now, and I’ve been riding it for almost 30 years now. I could do the old caretaker joke here, that it’s only had 8 sets of new tyres, 3 saddles and numerous brake and gear cable replacements… but I won’t! It is showing its age a little now though, despite the replacement of many of the parts that generally wear out on a bike. It is very heavy compared to modern road bikes and I don’t think I’ve ever quite got the saddle in the right position, but my bike has been my ticket to getting some fresh air and exercise, as well as seeing a fair bit of the English countryside, over the years and I love her. She does need some fettling soon though, like the pedal crank needs to be tightened again, and the chain is looking a bit rusty and keeps jumping/slipping, but I hope she’ll be good for another long while yet.

So here’s where I went today:

This is the screen grab off my Fitbit app on my phone, which thankfully kept its connection all the way round. (Does anyone else’s lose connection from time to time?) You can see that I went in more or less a circular route today, and if you know the area at all, you may know that there is a long stretch of a hill along Lightbowne Road up past St Joseph’s cemetery. Well, I not only managed to get all the way up that stretch from the roundabout near GMP HQ without toppling off my bike, but I managed to do it without having to go down to my bottom gear! In fact, I was in about gear 6 at the lowest (middle cog, somewhere near the bottom of the back cog). Kevin tells me off because I call them “easy” and “hard” gears, and he says I should say “high” or “low” gear. I know what he means, but I can never tell which was is up, so high and low mean nothing to me. It makes sense to say “easy” because I know which combination will help me get my little legs up the hill easier than another.

But my “easy” cog is out of reach at the minute because of the fettling required on the gear cable. I can only reach the middle cog and the “hard” cog… or “high” as Kevin calls it. Tsk…

Which actually makes today’s achievement all the more rewarding really. I not only went the furthest I’ve been since I got Covid in October, but I went at a higher average speed, hit a new top speed (21 mph on Oldham Road – yay me!), and managed to get up one of the hills that initially foxed me when I started riding properly again last summer IN MIDDLE GEAR!

Piling more onto the achievements today was the fact that when I got home, I was able to carry on with a bit of housework and pottering around before I went for my shower, and I have not felt tired from the ride at all. I don’t know if it’s because my weight is dropping so it’s easier to haul my carcass round on the bike now, or if my little legs are getting stronger and I can actually use the muscles instead of letting the weight of my legs propel the pedals when I’m tired and going uphill.

However, as with any road ride, I did come across a couple of drivers who put me in danger. The first was a bus who clearly didn’t see that I was riding in the cycling lane and who I felt brush past me as the driver swerved out into the main carriageway again… but then he carried on ahead of me back in the cycle lane again!

The second was a van driver who turned right on Oldham Road right in front of me. He had the decency to slam his brakes on and apologise to me before he hit me – I wonder if he caught sight of the camera on my helmet before or after he waved? Or maybe it wasn’t me he was apologising to but the car that was on my right elbow at the time.

Whatever the issues with other road users today, I’m glad I got out today and got these fat-bird legs turning again. As ever, I’m looking forward to my next one. Tally ho!!

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