Riding a bike is not only a simple pleasure but it’s also good for your health. For some time now I’ve been deliberating about doing some form of exercise. I can’t seem to stick to an exercise regime on my own plus my shoulder is still somewhat frozen. I love swimming but I just can’t get motivated to do it – I think it’s the cold weather that puts me off. That and the thought of having to get in my car and drive somewhere just to exercise doesn’t really appeal. I walk and I garden and that’s about it. I know that it’s not enough, especially as I think that fitness and health contribute to a fine 3rd act. So I decided to start cycling.
When I was a child my favourite pastime was riding my bike and I spent most afternoons riding around our neighbourhood in Port Elizabeth. I knew every street, every house, every garden and every open space. As soon as I got on my bike I entered into the world of my imagination. As I rode I got lost in the stories I made up in which I was the main actor and Mill Park was the stage on which I played. One day I left my bike in the driveway and it was stolen. I was bereft; it was my golden chariot, my trusty steed, an extension of me. My parents replaced the stolen bike but it was never quite the same after that.
When Peter and I lived in the Zululand bush in the early 80’s, I used to ride my red Western Flyer about 3 kms to the local school where I volunteered as an English teacher. I enjoyed the solitude of those rides and of course the track through the bush was beautifully wild. Once, on my way to school, I came across a goat giving birth. I stopped to watch for as long as I could before racing off to tell the children my news. They stared, amused and bemused, as I excitedly explained what I had just witnessed. What was this crazy white woman jabbering on about, had she never seen an animal give birth before?! Of course, it was a common sight for rural children.
The last time I rode a bike was 10 years ago in Italy and I loved every minute of it, until I got off the bike and fell over because my legs had turned to jelly. Be that as it may, determined to do something about my expanding waistline and wheezy chest, I decided it was time to air Alex’s mountain bike, which had been gathering dust in the garden shed ever since he left home. I must admit that at first I was a bit apprehensive getting on the bike – I wobbled a bit and then I was back in the saddle – like they say, it’s just like riding a bike!
Like Lucy Jordan I’ve long since realised that I’ll never ride through Paris in a sports car, but how lucky am I to be able to ride along country roads with the warm wind in my hair and not feel a care in the world? Sometimes, on my return home from morning rides, I stop at the orchard, pick a handful of berries and stuff them straight in my gob – it can’t get any better than that. Cycling has definitely brought my inner child back.