Guess what. I didn’t cycle to work today. This was because I had to go and see the rather handsome consultant in Leeds who put a little umbrella in my heart last year. This natty little device not only keeps my ticker dry on rainy days, but also stops naughty nitrogen bubbles from sneaking into parts of my body they shouldn’t be in, making me go all bendy. It’s very scientific diving, far more so I presume than cycling, but can be as death-defying as cycling, particularly if you’re riding down Birchcliffe Road without any brakes.
This made me start thinking about the training required for novice cycling. In the diving world we have a financial extraction process for every conceivable element of the sport from identifying fish (£99), filling your surface marker buoy with air (another £99), to playing about with gas blending to go to ridiculous depths (£mortgage your house). You are then fully qualified to go in the water and kill yourself if you do anything wrong. With cycling it strikes me that you can buy the kit without any form of qualification check and launch yourself into the traffic without more ado and that if you then make an error, you could potentially endanger yourself, a pedestrian or a hormonal goose on a towpath or make a nasty dent in someone’s car. Now I might be mistaken in this – maybe I need to ask google, but I do appear to have been allowed to launch into my cycling career with no training or regulatory structure other than a vague realisation that remaining on the left hand side of the road might be a good idea. Is this wise I ask myself? I know they do cycling proficiency stuff with kids in schools, but what about adults? Furthermore I am now thirsty for technical knowledge and bursting with such questions as ‘what does feathering your brakes mean’ and I am not sure where to formally go for such knowledge. Informally of course I will ask my mate Emma who was born on a bicycle, or my new found friend Alan who measured my bottom.
So – my ride today? I have found somewhere FLAT! It’s excitingly, liberatingly, breathtakingly like a pancake. Before you novices in the South Pennines get all excited and want to know where this pancake paradise is, I have to admit that I have snuck away from our green and pleasant hills and am at a secret location where there are fish, seals and puffins. It’s tricky, but not impossible to dive in the Calder Valley, but the options are limited to the canal (cold, dark, full of dubious items) or a reservoir (cold, dark and illegal) so I have to travel to do my sport. I may be here for some time, but I shall remain faithful to my Pennine roots and try not mention too many times how gloriously easy it is for a novice to not have a 1 in 4 on every route. I am after all supposed to be waving the flag for the South Pennines.