The Bike and Other Stories
Cycling adventures around London, New York City, and Berlin.
Geoffrey Armes
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Rain Jacket
Geoffrey Armes - 2020-08-08 00:37:46+02:00

Today was a peculiar day. Rain clouds scudded across the sun, showers then brilliant light penetrated the foliage and presented itself as I attempted to spin the pedals, nursing a not so strong right leg whilst teaching the left to involve itself again.

I say 'again,' because I realised as I was out, yesterday I think it was, that I had to use my legs differently. I threw the question, as I rode, out to the road, to the forest slipping by, to the glowering clouds. “How?”. Or, “In what way?”. And an answer came, in memories of riding decades before, of “Lead with your left. Like you did before.”

It was a music thing, see. Or a music for dance thing. Connecting movement phrases to simple rhythm, the pulse in my leg, setting up a pulse, riding tempo, and deliberately counting with “one,” on the left leg, as the leader, particularly on four and eight count. Even numbered phrases. Threes are interesting. I try them shifting weight across the legs, thrusting an alternative 'one', wondering if somehow, this can help me be faster. Especially going up hill.

Uphill. A village. In Somerset. The flap of sails on beached dinghies, the endless chatter of spinnaker in the steady sea breeze, evoked by the wind in the shoulders of the rain jacket Vincent gave me a few weeks ago, claiming it was too big, that it would fit my scrawny frame better. Reluctantly I concede he is right.

I told you it was a peculiar day. I've been riding in dreams for days. Struggling to stay awake on descents and stay fast on the flat. Humidity will do that. Today by contrast was less logy and enervated. The wind called for action, the clouds above responded, how could I not try? Ride in the present! I sprinted some, nursed the leg other moments, sulked, enjoyed the bluster and meandered my thoughts. Back to fixing the legs.

I used to go faster when I was younger. And not just because I was younger. Stuff has shifted in my body. Football injuries. Hours hunched over badly set up pianos and conga drums reaching for synths. And a stroke. All have left their marks.

So somehow today, a small miracle as I remembered how to ride with both legs, even engaging the left and resting the right.

Today then, I went out, I reversed the route only partly because of the breeze, as I thought about balance. Rain drops occasionally spattered, and the wind was cool, an autumnal August chill. I kept the jacket on, and the shoulders flapped vigorously in the stiff head wind that reminded me of the sea at Uphill, near Weston-super-Mare where we sometimes holidayed when I was small. A relative had access to a caravan, and my family was able to grab a week or two of that access. Days on the beach, when not climbing the steep hill to the old church that dominated the village skyline, or walking the dikes and marshland to the cliff peninsula of Brean Down. And the Donkey rides that waited there.

I had to stop again, stretch the leg. A few desultory mosquitos tried to swarm me. I took a draw from my bottle, organic apple juice and some chokeberry mixed in there as well. It didn't take much to right the leg, but its persistent misbehaviour is concerning. It's not like the strength isn't there, so it's a tendon issue. Maybe. Time to revisit osteopathy. Time to call the bike fit guy. Maybe the saddle needs to go up, or a shoe cleat adjusted. The moody sky threw down a few more droplets. I didn't reach for the camera, as I often do, and kept the jacket on. The sound of childhood holidays accompanied my not fully satisfied push north, the pedals turning the wheels as I sought to forget my legs for a few minutes and just fly, synthesised with the machine, elevated from the quotidian to be alive in the welcome muscular pain of the present. Nobody passed me, I avoided the small but troublesome potholes on the second rise, dealt with some massive delivery lorry that emerged from the trail to the city ammunition dump, and found I had enough in me to make a nice “end spurt,”as my German colleagues say.