By chance, about ten years ago, I acquired a bike.
Nothing illegal happened, but neither did I pay for it. Use your imagination to fill in the gaps.
The bike in question was a carbon framed Cannondale Synapse, and was worth more than the sum total of everything else I owned at the time. For that reason, I felt duty bound to embrace the expense of the bike and become a cyclist.
The fact is, that bike changed my life – I’ve been rewiring my brain around it ever since.
Granted, if I’d acquired a really expensive fishing rod or a gold plated suit of armour, I would now be obsessed with fish, or medieval re-enactment, but I didn’t, so I’m not.
I’m obsessed with cycling, and not one area of my life remains untouched by it.
Where I go on holiday
Holidays used to be a pin-in-a-map affair; pick a country, vaguely recognise the name of a town or city, book flights.
Simple. But a bit dull.
Now, it’s a more considered process.
When pinning down a location for our next family holiday we need to ask ourselves: Are there any big mountains? Might I have seen the professionals racing there on TV? Is there a related story involving Benard Hinault and/or Laurent Fignon and some morally questionable behaviour?
If the answer is yes to all three of these questions, then the location makes the shortlist. If there is also a high probability of decent coffee being available mid-ride, it becomes a distinct possibility.
I have kids, too, of course, so we cross-check that the chosen spot is near a beach and/or outdoor swimming lake, and that ice-cream has not implausibly been made illegal in that area.
NOW we can book the flights.
What I eat
I used to eat anything, and lots of it.
The content of my diet was reasonably healthy, the portion sizes less so. Up until the age of thirty I was still, in my mind, a skinny rake.
As a teenager I could shovel whatever I liked down my gullet and never gain an ounce. In my late twenties, this began to change; the weight gain, I mean, not the gullet shovelling.
It happened so slowly, but then so suddenly, that I didn’t notice.
A bit like UK daylight hours in October; one minute you’re pretty clear about day being day and night being night, then before you know it you’re leaving the office at 5pm under ink-black skies.
I had a double chin, is what I’m saying.
I would mention, in conversation, that: “yeah…I’ve always eaten whatever I like and never put weight on…I’m just lucky.”
And people would look at me all: “erm…yeah…you have put SOME weight on.”
But they wouldn’t say that; I mainly deal with British people, and an arched eyebrow is as close as we get to the brutal honesty of a weight gain conversation.
It was only after cycling for a couple of years, once I’d become fairly quick and got used to spending my time with actual skinny people, that I noticed that I perhaps wasn’t skinny.
I had plenty of time and space to dwell on that fact as they dropped me on the climbs, leaving me alone with my thoughts, and with seven or eight unnecessary kilos of body weight stashed about my person.
Nothing focusses the mind like a spot of suffering, so I did what I had to: I began to refuse pastries and cakes, I cut down on pies, I all but gave up alcohol, and I embarked upon a life devoted to will-power and denial.
Every third Saturday, for balance, and if I’ve been good, I lock myself in a room with a bag of donuts and go to town on those MF’s!
And now I’m thin, if not quite skinny.
Lots of cyclists still drop me on the climbs, but not as many. I also get cold easily, because I’ve lost a layer of fat. But the new groove of behaviour has etched itself across my brain and the weight-watching is second nature.
Ten years ago, I did not see that coming.
Which leads naturally to:
I know what my pulse rate is, and I’m proud of it. It suggests I have a massive heart which slowly thuds gallons of oxygenated blood around my body.
I like the idea of that.
My blood pressure is normal. Presumably. Admittedly I haven’t checked it for several years but, as the saying goes, what you don’t know can’t hurt you.
Though in this instance I suppose what I don’t know could hurt me. Quite badly. It could hurt me to death. But for the purposes of this article (and the underwriters of my life insurance) my blood pressure is tip-top!
I have muscles, albeit some very specific ones, and almost exclusively on the lower half of my body, but they’re there. My upper body, on the other hand, resembles a badly drawn stick-man.
All things considered I imagine I’ll live to be 110 or so, providing I continue to ride my bike at every available opportunity, and also continue to avoid getting hit by a big truck turning left without indicating.
But generally, I’m healthy.
What parts of my body I shave
That is all.
What I wear
Clearly, I wear significantly more skin-tight clothing as a cyclist than I did as a non-cyclist. Anything up to 100% more, by rough estimates.
Where my spare cash goes
I used to spend all my spare cash on…well…actually, what DID I used to spend it on?
I can only conclude that someone was cleverly defrauding me of a percentage of my earnings like the greedy accountant of a feckless global popstar – because I don’t really recall buying anything.
I mean…I liked a beer.
I must have fed myself, I suppose.
But I now spend hundreds of pounds a year on bike related stuff, so why wasn’t I, in the pre-cycling years, rolling around in cash? I should be a millionaire by now.
But the moment has gone.
My local bike shop has an account on their system with my name on it. They are under strict instructions to never reveal the value of my total spend with them.
For the sake of my heart, my health, my marriage, my nerves, my blood pressure…
In the wrong hands, that single piece of information could unravel everything.
(Images: via pixabay.com|www.ragtimecyclist.com)