Cycling is all about speed. I have written before on these pages about the attractions of careering across the South Downs at break-neck speeds. But no cyclist would be able to travel any distance at all were it not for the ability to balance on the two wheels.
I can’t remember learning to ride a bike myself, but I do remember my son taking part in slow races during his cycling proficiency test, and the emphasis on developing bike handling skills.
One of the ways of improving cycling skills is to practise cycling slowly. In fact one of the signs of advanced bike-handling skills can be seen at traffic lights as cyclists rock rhythmically on the pedals moving the bike fractionally backwards and forwards while waiting for the lights to change.
It takes all my concentration to stop myself from putting my foot on the ground when I approach a red light. In order to keep balancing on the wheels you cannot stay absolutely still. To be able to keep you feet on the pedals you have to rock gently backwards and forwards ever so slightly, while standing on the pedals eyes trained on the junction ahead.
It’s all about balance.
Is it any surprise, then, that it is while balancing on two wheels that I feel at my best? A lot is written about work-life balance, centered around the stresses of juggling responsibilities of work and home life. Elsewhere, critics and commentators are lauded for taking a balanced view of their chosen subject. It seems that for all the balancing skills I use, I don’t seem to able to transfer these to life out of the saddle.
Perhaps the secret is in perpetual motion. To balance on two wheels means that I have to always be moving. Albert Einstein, more famous for his grasp of the laws of Physics, than the handlebars of a bike, once gave the following sage piece of advice: ‘Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving’. His words sound a lot like the language of the self-help books that promote the ability to ‘move on’. In all honesty, I have to admit that this is something I find very hard to do.
I can find lots of good reasons for not moving on. Principal among them is the need to learn lessons from the past. Strange, then, that the one lesson I find so hard to take on board is the ability to move on, when, on my bike, I am happiest when I’m moving.
I saw a psychiatrist last week, and he has given me a new tablet to try with the aim of helping me to regain some feeling, the loss of which I wrote about last time. I’ve been taking tablets for my mood for long enough now to know that it’s not like taking paracetamol; it’s not that kind of headache. The effects take some time to kick in. Consequently, writing this week’s instalment of the blog has proved to be a very steep hill indeed. With this in mind, I will free-wheel a bit now; I have chosen a poem that wobbles more than I would like – better that than falling off.
Voices in my head,
Chanting , ‘kisses, bread.
Prove yourself. Fight. Shove.
Learn. Earn. Look for love,’
Drown a lesser voice,
Silent now of choice:
‘Breathe in peace, and be
Still, for once, like me.’
Vikram Seth (1952-)