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  • Philip Bryer

Biking, it's for the birds

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

“I want nothing to do with it,” I said.

“You can use it too,” said Sandra.

“I won’t, you know.”

“It’s something we can do together,” she said.

My point was, if you want to invest in an exercise machine, in a Carl Lewis Lateral Thigh Trainer, no less, then don’t try to enlist me in your scheme in the hope that when you can’t be bothered with it after not very long that I’ll be there to share 50% of the guilt, because I won’t.

“Be good exercise for you,” said Sandra, “good for the lungs.”

“Firstly, I don't smoke anymore, and anyway we’ve got bikes now,” I reminded her.

Einstein on a bike

Surely a cycle ride’s got more going for it than standing on the landing and doing the Carl Lewis step thing? Or doing the Lewis thing in the garage, because that’s where the cursed thing sits now. Wearing a cloak of dust and draped in thick and sticky and scary cobwebs, with spiders, their bodies as big as shallots, hiding underneath while sharpening their fangs.

So now we get the bikes out and belt around on a Saturday morning or a Sunday afternoon. I’ll confess to preferring a post-lunch jaunt as the pre-lunch gin or so, and the glass of wine for the chef while he’s deglazing the pan, then a majority share in an Argentinian Malbec give me the necessary confidence to give the pedals a kick and get the rubber spinning on a local A Road, and spar with the bozos who exercise a worryingly heavy boot on the accelerator, and such a rude lack of street-smarts and road-manners that I can only assume their testes remain embedded deep in their undercarriages.

Anyway, it’s something we can do together. We don’t have any of ‘the gear’, we don’t squeeze ourselves into pastel elastic which makes us look like skinny, shiny insects, and the day they make the Michael Owen Haircut Shaped Cycle helmets compulsory is the day the bikes get pitched into the canal, but for now, we can rotate the cogs and the chains and it makes you feel like you’re not just waiting around for the day when Ant and Dec are presenting the Antiques Roadshow and you’re watching it in the hospice.

Sometime last year, we took a sharp left down an as yet uncharted farm track, which, as we made our way down, did nothing in return but narrow, envelop us with bramble and undergrowth, and undermine us with rut and pothole. I saw a man on the left. Hard to see, as he was cloaked from Timberland boot to forage cap in camouflage gear, binoculars clutched so hard to the bridge of his nose, that he barely acknowledged my breezy call of ‘afternoon’ as I barrelled past. So intent was he, no doubt, on the distant snipe or tufted duck.

I paused a little further on, giving Sandra a welcoming smile as she approached.

“Don’t bloody wait for me then,” she said.


Turns out she wanted me to stop, was ringing her bell and everything.

“Sorry,” I said, “Just didn’t hear you. Did you see that bloke?”

Back we went, the same way, and, despite myself, I took off again, figuring that the best way over this bumpy terrain was to tackle it at speed. Opting for discretion, I ignored the now really pissed off twitcher, went on a bit and, suddenly mindful of Sandra, stopped and turned to look back. To see her flying past our bird-watching friend while furiously ringing her bell and no doubt startling anything with feathers into fleeing to the next-but-one county.

The last I saw of him, he was tossing his spy-glasses into the stream before slipping slowing into the water after them. No doubt jealous that we’d found the better pastime. Something that’s a good workout for people who’ve decided as part of their own personal fitness mantra that white wine doesn’t count.

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