Riding whilst drink has much to commend it. Firstly it renders you immortal by sheathing your squashy bits in what I like to think of as “lager armour”. Secondly it engenders a certain raffish approach to risk. Rather than assess the many and potentially fatal hazards awaiting the unwary cyclist, one can throw the entire risk management system out of the window; although a more apt description would be “in front of an oncoming car”
Thirdly, it grants you god like riding skills. Well that’s not entirely true of course, you think you have magically attained god like riding skills otherwise why would you attempt to craft a cheeky manoeuvre of placing a 24inch handlebar in a 20inch gap? As I wobbled down the Strand, it became increasingly clear that while I had no issues whatsoever powering the bike, steering it was quite another matter. Still what with being immortal, immune to risk and infused with divine bike skills, my progress was serene if a little erratic. It put me in mind of that old joke “I’ve never been in an accident but I’ve seen quite a few”.
For every positive ying there is a negative yang when beer is your staple diet. The most pressing of these is the need to wee about every five minutes once the seal is broken. If one mighty tree in Hyde Park looks to be sickening, I may be able to offer an explanation, but not one I’ll share with the parks department. A second disadvantage is the pain of spinning five pints of lager in a bloated stomach at a hundred revs per minute. This becomes doubly unpleasant when chasing fellow commuters up hill. Yes, competitive dad kicked in and at no point did a belly full of sloshing liquid warn me that a more realistic target would be a slow pedestrian. Or a tree.
Still we’ve all done this when we’re drunk. Sweating and grinding away in pursuit of the unobtainable, pumping tired limbs and wrestling with recalcitrant objects. I’m still talking about riding but I’ve no idea what you lot are thinking. Really, you should be ashamed of yourself.
I had just the one accident when inadvertently punching a wing mirror while making hasty progress past Queenie’s house. In normal car hating mode, I’d flick the guy a V whether it’s my fault or not. But ensconced in my alcohol fog, he was my new best friend so I communicated my humblest apologies through the physical metaphor I can best describe as Frank Spencer with Parkinson’s disease.
He responded with soothing motions and a look of terror suggesting he believed I was going to open his door and enfold him in a beery hug. I did consider it but once the tiny sober corner of my mind screamed “Restraining Order”, I felt a weak grin and apologetic wave was probably a more appropriate response.
My statistically improbably uninjured arrival at the station was the trigger for my train to leave. Sadly not with me on it due to navigational uncertainly when faced with two new platforms and a slight worry that the bike probably would be safer if I locked it to something. Still gave me time for a quick beer before the next one. Well I didn’t, but I gave it frank consideration.
When you’ve put in a sustained effort at the bar – and even this close to the longest day – arriving at your home station in the dark shouldn’t be a surprise. It wasn’t really although that’s a decent noun to describe my expression when I realised I had nothing more than a couple of electric candles and a flawed sense of direction to get me home.
And the effects of the beer. That always instils a certain childish delight when spotting interesting stuff while attempting to keep the bike on the black stuff. “oooh badger!” I squealed happily as he danced around my front wheel and I made a committed move to avoid his little black nose. A bit too committed considering my riding muscles were controlled by a “fly by lager” system which was both imprecise and tardy. Still the bushes were not infested with anything too spiky and for a moment it seemed like a pleasant place to spend the night.
But no, drunk as I was, home was where I needed to be. To stave off boredom, I placed myself in the centre of a practical experiment to determine “how dark is it without lights and how far can I ride no handed“. The answer to those questions are Very and Not Far.
Still it’s only a flesh wound.