Getting Back On A Bike

For the last decade or so I’ve been overweight and horribly unfit. For the last five or six years I’ve been meaning to do something about it but inevitably haven’t. Last week I was out with my daughter and realised that even walking up a moderate hill was raising my heart rate and that I now really need to do something about it.

My weight is fairly stable and I tend to hover around the 100-105kg range. At around 5’9” it’s too much. Fortunately I gave up smoking in 2000 and my alcohol consumption is negligible. I do however love food and I do have a big problem with portion sizes and snacking. Added to this, as a self-employed software developer I tend to spend most of my time shuffling around the house. I don’t have a commute and since I live in a small village in the countryside I really have to drive to go anywhere.

A lot of developers, notably Jeff LaMarche, have started using treadmill desks but my office is too small and I struggle to change a plug so building my own desk would be extremely hazardous for me and my computer equipment. I need to find another form of exercise and I’ve decided to start cycling.

As a child I generally loved my bikes. I fondly remember my Grifter which was eventually replaced by a BMX which I hated but was superseded by a Peugeot racer a year or so later. It was probably a really basic bike but it was fast, fun to ride and allowed me to visit all my friends in my local and neighbouring towns. Sadly it was stolen from a family friend’s garage and was never replaced. At about the age of 14 I stopped cycling for twenty years.

Back around the mid-2000s I inherited a terrible old mountain bike from a colleague when he moved back to his native Canada. I did bits of cycling on it and generally enjoyed myself and I even signed up for a sponsored bike ride for the British Heart Foundation which had me covering 27 miles on the Somerset levels. With little practice and over £500 of sponsorship money at stake I surprised myself by not only completing the course but thoroughly enjoying it. I went to bed exhausted that night expecting to feel like I’d been run over by a truck the next day but I woke up with no aches or pains.

Inspired by this I decided to buy a better bike via the cycle to work scheme. This essentially allows an employee to buy a bike via their employer using an interest-free loan. I bought a beautiful Dawes Super Galaxy but made one crucial mistake. The local bike shop I used to source the bike didn’t have any in stock so I had to follow their advice about sizing. I shouldn’t have because the bike I got was a little too large for me and as a result I never really enjoyed riding it.

For the last few years I’ve given it some occasional use but nothing too serious. It allows me to accompany my seven year old on the bike rides she wants to do but I don’t derive much pleasure from riding it. For a couple of years I had a housemate who was a cyclist and even that didn’t encourage me to get out on my bike and cycle with him. Coupled with the lack of enjoyment I developed a huge, illogical and unnecessary, sense of guilt about it all because a Super Galaxy is not a cheap bike.

However after last week’s gentle prompt it occurred to me that health, both physical and mental, was more important and worth a lot more than a £1,300 bike. Therefore I’ve decided to go and buy a new bike, one I’ll actually sit on before I pay for it, and one that will hopefully re-kindle my love of cycling and in doing so help me shed some weight, get fit and become happier about myself.