… it is now.
Yesterday was my last ever London commute. 8200 miles, 421 round trips, 3 winters, 2 crashes and a daily joust with the murderous multitude. It was anticlimactic in the extreme with no fanfares or street parades marking my final passing of burned in landmarks. No final resurfacing of the pothole slalom which tests my early morning reflexes. No genuflection from those who I have bested in endless commuter races, nor gloating from those who have bested me.
No more shall I sequence lights in a three dimensional navigational puzzle, no longer shall the green of the Capital’s parks bring respite from tons of angry metal. No longer shall my ire be raised by unanswered pleas for airstrikes to disperse random roller-bladers. Not for me the obsessional forecast checking, the weary glance at a watch which must zoom round twice more before I am home, or the logistical ball ache of switching between urban MTB warrior and sad corporate clone.
And yet there is already a melancholy, a misplaced nostalgia if you will; sharp memories of soft summer smells, the warmth of the spring sun, the glory of a fitness properly earned, the joy of leaving fifty grand cars – with their brochure 150mph top speeds – in your Â£100 rat-bike wake. And even the grimness of seemingly endless winters could delight in crisp sunrises slash painted by azure blue, grinning through the rain, and just the simple bloody pleasure of not being completely ordinary.
It’s not enough. The first year was great, although cycling every day through the winter feels like it happened to someone else. My motivation to ride through the wind, rain and mobile death has diminished past the point of pragmatic excuses. Riding a bike – any bike – still defines what I really want to be doing right now, but the faffing, the background hum of traffic cockage, the grooved in rote of doing it again and again is no longer enough to make me do it.
This morningâ€™s bikeless journey was strange. My bag was too light, my mind frazzled by a constant search for commuting collateral, my body showered and unexercised. My shoes don’t cleat click on the station cobbles and my helmetless head feels unbalanced. As I risk a guiltily glance at my shackled bike, I swear it glowers back at my disloyalty.
It doesn’t feel good or bad, it just feels weird. A phantom Al clips in and heads out, as I force a right turn into the peopled sewers of the Underground. Something feels lost and I think that might be me.
But this is not quite the end. The brutal termination of a two wheels to work strategy shall be stayed for at least the summer. I’m childishly excited by the prospect of a hard packed, off-road jaunt to Ledbury station. But no more riding in the big city, no chance of commuting through the winter, no danger of the big accident I know was coming.
But I can’t stop. Not yet. It’s like a Class ‘A’ drug and while I know I can give it up anytime, but not like this. I must wean myself off it slowly, let it be chipped away, sliced by a thousand excuses, a slow death barely noticed.
But when I do, what the hell am I going to write about?