Ashes Turn To Yellow
I had dragged myself out for a bike ride. It was one of those days when neither mind nor body was really up for any exercise but there's an existential memory that takes over and, despite myself, there I was, cycling along familiar byways. It was warm but windy. It was probably no coincidence that it also seemed like one of those days when the wind is always a headwind.
Almost home, by the iron bridge at Ben Rhydding, and ahead of me is a woman who I see get off her bike and walk across the main road. On arriving at the junction myself, I have to slow and balance for a few seconds before I nip through a gap in the traffic to follow after her, lingering behind as I wait for the lights to go green, again wanting to avoid the need to unclip. She looks a bit wobbly as she takes a slow left turn and I give her a wide berth as I pass, looking over to offer her an encouraging smile. She is middle-aged and clearly a novice rider.
"I'll try to keep up with you," she jokes.
I just smile again, unsure of what to say without appearing rude. The road soon rises and I have to work hard, harder than I really want. I know the woman will likely be out of sight already but I feel a need to show off. I'm halfway up the hill towards home and beginning to slow. I feel like I can now safely twiddle away for the final half mile. Just as I get out of the saddle to ease the tired legs, a cyclist comes up quickly from behind. I'm hoping it's not anyone I know.
"I couldn't resist," she says, as she passes me with ridiculous ease, sat comfortably down on her bike.
Once again, I am left scrambling for a suitable reply. I’m devastated. I'm thinking that my time on the bike has been and gone. I'm not the man I once was. I'm too old for this lark. Quit while I’m vaguely ahead. It's simply not fun anymore. She's tanking up the hill ahead. Perhaps I should take up another hobby. Knitting maybe. And it's then, only then - being a little slow on the uptake - that I realise she's on an electric bike. With her turbo engaged.
I chase after her and have a lovely chat. She's ridden a bike this summer for the first time in twenty years. How wonderful that technology is dropping the barrier for entry in places like mine, where it's impossible to avoid big hills. So, I'm not going to retire yet. I know that I never will. At some point, I will embrace the electric bike too. And I expect to thoroughly enjoy it. But not quite yet.