This blog has had several incarnations since it's inception seven and a half years ago. At first, it was Rock Steady chronicling my times working for them. Then it was an almanac of living in Aberdeen, followed by offshore trips, and later musings on Texas. Recently, it's morphed into a bit of a ranty political blog and first time parenting nonsense page, but one thing I don't intend on it becoming is a place to mutter on about cycling.
But seeing as it's been the most interesting thing to happen to me in a long time (that I want to freely and publicly moan/rant/opine about) it will suffice to keep the post numbers up for now. So here's the third post in four months about cycling.
By now I've came and went to work multiple times on "my" bike which means that I've had a couple of experiences that unconnected, a bit. But what it has done is opened my mind and eyes to a few things that I'd not considered.
1) I have no sense of speed when cycling
When I was being taught how to drive my original instructor told me that, after a while, you'd get to know what speed 30mph was, and you'd not necessarily need to read the speedo each time you were driving. That is true - in my Passat I know when I at 30mph, because I have driving the car for the past two and a half years (and over eleven years of driving in total), but I honestly am yet to realise what speed I am cycling at. I can't tell if I am crawling at a slow pace or blisteringly speeding along the carriageway (try and guess which one is more likely). Maybe that will come with time.
2) I can't hear the traffic around me
This might just be me and my dodgy hearing, but when cycling along I can't really hear what is behind me if it's just a car. If this is a "thing", then it means that I get self concious when driving behind a cyclist for no reason. I feel that, by driving slowly behind them I am indirectly forcing them to feel the need to get out of my way or speed up, but most of the time the only way I know if a car is behind me is by regularly glancing backwards.
3) Vans are dicks
I have cycled to work a total of twice now, which is really nothing in terms of the long-term goal of doing it 5 times a week, but there one constant - van drivers are total dickheads, without expection. Yesterday on my short 1.2 mile stint from the office to the station FOUR vans drove too close to me, 50% of them being Yodel vans. This is the issue I have - my route takes me through Bellshill industrial estate, and I have to negotiate a few roundabouts with articulated lorries, buses, vans, and the usual cars. The van drivers appear to hate me, and it's not just at my work as not 2 minutes from my own home a untitled white van gave me the fear too.
4) I wouldn't be doing this without a helmet
There are arugments for and against helmets being used whilst cycling the big one obviously being in protects you brain case. The arguments against, however, are interesting to read - one being the increase in your own risk homeostasis. this is a concept I was taught during a safety course, which states if you make something inherently safer we all will adjust our risk to balance that out by acting more dangerously. This is why the NFL and NHL have had harder hits and worse cases of concussion since bring the helmets in because players take harder hits. There is also the shift of responsibility to the cyclist to almost "prepare" to be hit rather than other road users and cyclists getting better. There is another argument for casual cycling - when I used the Bike Hire scheme I didn't wear a helmet - I'd probably only wear it on daily commuting, in the dark, and not when kicking about the streets my self. However, for me the helmet is very important and that's a personal thing - I honestly wouldn't feel safe on my wobbly bike amongst all the van drivers and truck drivers without it. Plus, it has a wee flashy red light on the back.
5) Roundabouts are shite
As mentioned there are a few roundabouts to negotiate, and guess what? It turns out cycling around one to the last exit is pretty difficult. It's not only hard to pull out into the traffic to make your way across to the right turning lane in the first place, but then booting it around the roundabout confuses drivers it seems, who don't know whether to treat you like a car and give way or just try and over take you. The worst for this is right at my office, partly because I'm normally breathing out of my arse after a climb up a hill, but the two right next my own house are also not the easiest. These are two roundabouts set in series with 10 yards between them designed to break up the flow of traffic skipping down from East Kilbride to the motorway. It's a busy set and they're nothing more than glorified painted circles and cars regularly drive right over them.
6) My legs hurt
Yeah, I am a bit un fit. I've been working on getting healthier and cycling is a massive attempt at actually doing it. At some point I will make the 11 mile cycle to and from work without the train, but I won't be doing that until I know I can get back home and up the few hills that are near to our house without having to lie down on my back for 30 minutes the moment I get in, Frank licking my sweaty palms as I lie prone on the carpet.
Being on a bike a bit has changed my perspective of when out driving and I see a cyclist, and I do give them a lot more room that I used to and I do try to be a more aware driver.