If you ride your bike every day, this month's column isn't aimed precisely at you, but you're welcome to attend. Weekender? Same thing. But if this summer -- and I use the term 'summer' with nostalgia for the season I experienced in the States, not the strange sensation which parks itself between spring and autumn in the British Isles -- if this summer you'll be reintroducing yourself to your sense of balance, you might as well pull up a seat.

Who knows how it happens. A thought has leapt across a synapse which for the past nine months has been a bridge too far, and suddenly you fancy a ride again. So, using global positioning technology patented by your partner, you find and retrieve your bike from the depths of your basement or garage or wherever it is you have depths, and wheel it out into the partly cloudy (if that isn't an accurate forecast I'll eat my traditional knit cycling gloves) light of day.

Of course, it isn't rideable just yet. Even in your state of untenable excitement you can sense that.

The handlebars will need to be adjusted if you wish to travel any direction other than left, and the tyre valves are disgraced sentries for the remaining molecules of air keeping rims from ground zero. A few spokes have gracefully made room for the lawn-mower which has been your bike's sometime confidant over the months (although, oddly enough, you don't have a lawn). Everything looks just a bit out of true, you don't know whether to ride it or donate it to the Tate. And the entire affair is in need of a good sand-blasting to scatter home-steading dust, which resembles the pebble-dash on your (neighbour's) grim semi-detached.

So you track down the relevant wrenches, find out from some passing kid that you have presta valves but a schraeder pump, dust the saddle if nothing else, and soon enough you're at one with the road.


Back up.

Set the bike down for the 2 1/2 minutes it takes (I've timed it) to read this. It's going to be a bit like Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five stages of accepting death, but abridged, rearranged, and not so terminal.

Notes for born-again virgin cyclists, or, deja vu all over again.
They say you never forget how, which is comforting if you're easily comforted. If you're reading this you're either a subscriber, a newsstand browser, or a proofreader who knows how to spell 'schraeder', but whatever your level of expertise or commitment to the magazine, you're a cyclist.

This, believe it or not, is STEP ONE: Acceptance. Simply admitting to yourself that you're a cyclist, even if you're coming back to it after some years and don't feel like one. I can't stress this enough, because at the moment I can't think of a good reason why, and stressing it is an acceptable holding pattern.

No, there really is a good reason, and it's this: as any self-respecting 12-stepper will tell you, the key to solving a problem is admitting that you have one in the first place. And don't kid yourself, you do, now that you've opted to rediscover the joys of two wheels in a four-wheeled world. See Step Two for more details.

Admitting that you're a cyclist, giving in to that great good urge to see the world, or at least your little patch of it, under your own steam: this could easily be the beginning of your end, or end-to-end.

As you can see, Step One is a state of mind.

STEP TWO is Denial and Anger, though to be true to the original source, Denial and Isolation, which also fits.

You'll know you're experiencing denial the first time a motorist yells at you for no good reason, and you assume they're just shouting "Hello".

Presumably you've got Channel 5 up and running in your neck of the woods by now -- though ITV will do in a pinch -- and have digested the various 'road rage' programs which inevitably take a swipe at cyclists and just as inevitably attach an appalled camera to a frustratingly acquiescent but congenitally reckless messenger of death, then cut to White Van Man who is only too happy to dribble bile on cue for an audience whose minds are already made up and lied in. I pause here only to note that momentum has once again carried me far, far into a paragraph I'm presently ill prepared to close, save with the observation that the media doesn't like you in your new guise as a cyclist without the word 'green' somewhere in attendance, except the cycling media, they like you come what may.

Prepare to become an anonymous curiosity, a speed-bump, even a threat, borne from the equation that your sum has become greater than your parts. You could avoid all this by moving to some place like Amsterdam, but presumably you have roots in the community.

STEP THREE is how to actually re-learn to ride a bike. I'm not qualified to help you with this part, except to say that you're probably going to fall off at least once, just try not to think about it too much.

STEP FOUR is storing your bike somewhere easier to get at when you put it away again at summer's end.

Cycling Today, July 1999