John Walker's Electronic House

by on May.21, 2004, under The Rest

Here is an important thing: When you go for a bike ride, go uphill first.

I am horribly unfit. Firstly I’m overweight – not grotesquely so, but enough that when I see my reflection in a shop window, I double-take and think, “that can’t possibly be my belly,” before the crushing realisation that it is. I have man-boobies.

Unfortunately, because getting fat(ter) is a gradual process, it sneaks up on you. That’s almost true. Whenever I visit my parents, my mum tends to greet me with a cry of, “Look at the SIZE of you.” But in-between times, it sneaks up on me. But what’s really made me feel like the Blubberwhale King has been climbing flights of stairs. If I’m in the position of having to go up a couple of floors, I’ll trot my way quite happily, until I reach the floor I’m stopping at, and find that I’m having a heart attack. This proves inconvenient on a regular basis.

So something in my brain has snapped, and decided: it’s time to do at least something. I found myself, quite involuntarily, pumping up the tyres on my bike. The bike that has remained on the same spot on my roof (well, the shop’s roof, and my bit of it) for a year. I’d forgotten that it has two different types of tyres, and so needs two different pumps, and I could only find one. (The other one, it turned out, was clipped to frame of the bike, which seems a ridiculous place to put it). So I drove to the place I was planning to cycle to, borrowed a bike pump while I was there, and drove back. Pumped the tyre up. Stood back. Looked at the bike and realised I now didn’t have a reason to ride it. Failure.

So yesterday I defiantly rode it to a meeting in the village, despite the rain. An incredible 500 metres or so.

Which brings us to this afternoon. Tonight I’m taking my younger youth group on a walk. I thought it would be a very good idea to take my bike to check the route, remember where we were going. Genius. The rough route would take us down the valley, along near the canal, and then back up again. And so down the hill I cycled. I was going incredible speeds, 50, 60 thousand miles an hour. And when I got to the bottom, I was thinking, “I live in the most incredible place! Why have I wasted living in such a beautiful area?” I wasn’t going to stop there. The road doubles back on itself, leading to a weir and a nice riverside pub. I know this, because I have driven there.

So I hurtled along, faster and faster, flies and my eyes becoming as one, and then at the end of the road, where it sloped up quite steeply, I didn’t get off – I just pumped my way up. I WAS VICTORIOUS. I had a celebratory glass of Coke in the pub, which the nice lady gave me for 10p cheaper as I was just short with the change in my pocket. I felt remarkably good, sat at wooden outdoor table, overlooking the river, surrounded by green in every direction. (Except for up).

There’s no real need to go on, is there? I thought the sensiblest thing to do would be to go up the bridle path that cuts a straight line all the way up the hill, rather than the meandering, weaving path of the roads. For the fun of it, I thought I’d see how far I could cycle up it. About a metre. But that’s not because I’m the rubbish King Blubberwhale, but because this path is just shy of vertical. I wasn’t entirely sure why the myriad stones and rocks weren’t all rolling their way to the bottom. About halfway up, my bike became a sort of two-wheeled zimmer-frame. Two thirds of the way I up I made a solemn life-oath that I would never, ever cycle to the bottom of that hill again.

At the top, I realised I had no idea where I was. Which was only bad because it meant I didn’t know how much at the bottom of the world I still was. Correctly picking right bore me out onto a familiar road, at the bottom of a horrible hill, but at least close to home. I didn’t cycle the hill – I didn’t have the strength. But I did ride the last five minutes home from the top.

The thought that dominated, when “never do this again” gave it room, was “I cannot believe I thought this would be a good idea before going on a walk tonight.” I have no idea if I’ll survive, or if I will have to be dragged by twenty twelve year olds, all singing “KING BLUBBERWHALE IS DEAD!” before a celebratory dance.

However, getting back I realise that I am in fact just the slightly overweight King of All Things Good and Decent, and that it might be fun to see if the route gets easier through repeating.

I might be mad now.

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