Five things I love about commuting
Love is an emotive noun and a dangerous verb. Unless you live in California, it’s almost impossible to suffix any apparently significant verb with “I’m lovin’ it man“. Try that in Halifax and they’d beat you to death with your own self parody and sell you to the kebab van..
I mean “yeah, I railed that berm and pulled a no handed fruit bat reverse into the hip and I’m just lovin’ it man”. You’re kebab stock and quite right too.
And yet, for the last eighteen months, great swathes of my life have been erased by a twelve hour day of which four of those hours represent actually getting to work. This is clearly bonkers because what kind of mentalist would exchange a sixth of their day traveling to the office ? Well this one because I’d rather bring my kids up in Baghdad than London and even short circuiting the parenting reflex, our great capital is essentially ten million fucktards wrapped in some interesting history.
The clever bit is to treat these four hours as an interesting life slice, ensuing cracking out emails or slumbering in a dribbly manner. There’s more to life and here are my top five reasons for carrying on:
1:Riding my bike
For those with a high boredom threshold who’ve endured a year of this blog, it’ll be eminently clear that I’m a grumpy bugger. Being a card carrying Yorkshireman, this is essentially our regional identify and I’m powerless to resist our Borg-like state of mind. But I bloody love riding my bike. In any weather, with weary legs or a thick head, and always facing sapping headwinds. Oh it’s crap for a minute but great forever doing the only thing I ever applied myself to and maybe, just maybe whisper it in a dark room, something I’m good at.
I love fighting with the traffic, flicking a ‘V’ after an outrages move, zipping down the outside of fifty grand cars locked into a congestion grid. Making bold moves, stretching every muscle and straining every sinew to win a race, make a gap, staying alive. The worst weather system you ever rode through doesn’t even begin to rock like riding a bike.
When I’m too old, too ill, too broken to do it anymore, then I’ll be properly miserable.
2:Not being you
Donning the corporate cloak and checking in your ‘fuck you’ gland at the door is somewhat at odds with my eighteen year old self. At that age we’re all different and yet double that age and only the chemically displaced still believe we’re not all the same. So we search for differentiation and on a bike I find it in spades. I’m the guy with an informal train seat reservation system as sweat evidences my gloriously fast ride to the station. Shorts and a T-Shirt delineate me as a guy who rides his bike every day and, as a careless aside, spends a few hours in the office.
I could be almost anything else; a bike courier, a high alpine trekking guide, a circumnavigating two wheeled hero. I choose this because I’m planning and I’m dreaming but it’s not my life. What can you – in your fat suit and tunnel broken communications – offer instead of this?
Go check you’re Blackberry for answers. I win.
Not properly fit you understand. The realm of zero body fat, nutritional plans and exercise schedules are for those with almost nothing better to do. It’s with some wry amusement that I enter my fortieth year knowing that however much I ride, it’s not the exiler of life. At no point will the hair regrow from my crown, the thickening of body reduce to barely post-pubescent levels and nervous energy will mainline serial 18 hour days.
But that’s ok, this is enough. A balance between age, beer and exercise has been perfectly attained through bloody minded commuting. One glorious summer’s day, my pace was such that even those on the Auschwitz revival circuit could not best me. Never have I ridden so hard or so fast for so long. Even chasing a falling sun on the way home, sweat and lactic acid became my pace partners and I refused to slack.
Age begets slowness but since I’m only chasing myself, it’ll probably be ok.
Mountain biking is my sport so I’ve tried almost every discipline including racing. Luckily I was rubbish enough never to take it seriously. Almost no one finished behind me unless they’d been accidentally concussed with a pump by a wheezing bloke looking for excuses.
So if you don’t succeed, redefine your criteria for success. And go commuter racing which is just bloody great fun. It’s like Fight Club, you never talk about it, you never acknowledge you are racing, you neither crow in victory or admit defeat. It’s been a while since I’ve been bested although since I have “previous” with Bromptons, Halfords specials, and semi inflated horrors piloted by bicycle clips, my provenance in this area is hardly flawless.
But it is fucking fantastic, picking a victim, cruising up their “six” and then powering past while affecting the carefree actions of a man looking for his cigarette case. I’m not fast, merely furious and have long abandoned aerobic fitness for cheating and death or glory moves. Okay I may be killed and while that appears to have some downsides, the alternative is getting bested by a bloke with 4 PSI in his tyres, so it’s really a small price to pay.
I love racing. Except when I’m not in the mood when it doesn’t count. Just so we understand each other.
5: Displacement theory
Odd one this. Most of the randomness which wastes electrons on this blog is dreamed up while I’m riding to work. My peripheral vision, schooled by eighteen months of not dying, apes the best electronics radar. The route is hard wired and my left brain plays out every possible “stupid manoeuvre” that some lunatic may pull in front of me.
So I’m left with 80 minutes a day to do something else. It frees my mind to freewheel randomly and bind backwater synapses with metrosexual dendrites. The insoluble become porous and a thousand plot lines for six hundred people with nothing better to read than this play out.
Sadly a broken short term memory and lack or writing materials lead to a desperate attempt to lasso fading ideas. Probably a blessing frankly and if you want descriptive prose and correctly conjugated verbs, I can thoroughly recommend the BBC web site.
So bring it on with your hated cars and monsoon like weather. Soak me, squash me and best me in races. Lambast my riding style and devalue our shared community through stupidity. I care not; in simple terms cyclists are right and almost everyone else is wrong – so join me brothers and sisters in our quest for respect and understanding, you have nothing to lube but your chain*.
*Sorry but I’ve been trying to get that line in for bloody ages