My front tyre scribes the perfect arc around the final bend on the descent. Sweeping the inside edge of the white line paints my racing line. My fore fingers sit alert teasing the levers but applying no pressure. To scrub off velocity on this stunning road would be a sin. Out of the corner and on, flat now, the bike sling shots into the far gutter -I drop it down to the 12 and kick, sit and hold 55kph. The black road gasps by like a train window as I dig lower, racing, training, pure joy. I wasn’t sure what the reason was for the level 4 effort, but I was loving the pain. The road kicks up and I double tap up to the 14 and dig in. Thoughts of age and lost chances are pushed to the back of the skull, driven by the air milling off my face. It takes on a colour and it scrapes by the sweat. The kettle boils over and I get the telegram from my legs, they can sustain the dream of talent no longer. Busted, I drop into the 39 and turn for home. I top the hill where home and heaven can be seen, and settle back for 10 mile of spinning.
I am electric. This is why I ride. Then a taxi pulls out and I slam into the back of it.
At 12 years daft, when a horn blurted close, complaining to me and my pals for riding 3 abreast, I understood that we, bicycle people, were not the kings of the road. We were guests of the large engines. We own the lanes until a tractor shouts, and the paths until a horse snorts. The first near miss by a bus, you realise how fragile we are out there.
As I gained awareness, laying on the road, my lungs insisted to be refilled. The deep GASPS frightened the woman kneeling over my corpse and she retreated- black knees in cream trousers giving away her human conscience. “GuuUUAA” How can I be drowning? My body kicked in panic to refill the lungs. Someone forced my shoulders down, not a wrestler, but a small old man using the first aid he learned the Korean War for independence- the pain was white hot. “An ambulance is on its way son,” he bawled confusing me further. For who? Out of the corner of my eye I saw some of my helmet. I never liked it. Too hot, too white, too expensive, the bit I saw indicated it was money well spent.
Ambulance, X rays and an open-back gown follows down a clean, green corridors with all corners reinforced with plastic to protect from tired nurses.
I wonder how safe cycling really is. The noise, the scream, the thud of Campagnolo in door panel… haunts me.
I wonder will the truck run over my wheels or will I move the screen on the turbo trainer closer and hide. Wounded in body and soul, yesterday I hid in bandages.
Now, the sun shines and my body bleeds and I can’t ride. For 6-8 weeks I must not ride until I can without eyes chocked. By then the lorries will pass wider and I will assert my place on the road; 1 meter out to challenge the chancers. I will wear red in the day and reflective at night, but I will ride.
The taxi stole more than a morning. The other me, in the parallel universe with better reactions did 120kms today. The Taxi stole a frame, a front wheel and a clavicle. But I will ride. I will fix a light to the pannier and will no longer expect ‘him’ to stay at junctions where he should.
The sun shines and although cold I want to be out. I feel the buzz already before the healing has even started. Pillow shops can be dangerous with any of the joy a bicycle can bestow.
I am electric. This is why I ride.