Now that I am living and working in Edinburgh, I have decided to take up cycling. Unfortunately, I have already managed to injure myself on my bike.
The worst thing is that I can’t even blame it on anyone else. I did it all by myself – just me and the road.
I thought I felt something in my pocket, so I took one hand off the handlebar to check it wasn’t a valuable that was going to slip out. While still riding one-handed, I hit a speed bump. It knocked me right off my bike at a fair speed.
At first I hoped that the main damage had been to my ego. But it didn’t take long to become clear that I was physically in a bad way.
I landed on both hands, with the right side of my body taking the brunt of the impact. My left wrist is sprained. I have a radial head fracture in my right elbow. And there are numerous grazes and bruises on my hands and the right of my body.
I haven’t been particularly accident prone in my life up until now. So this is the worst set of injuries I have ever had, by some margin. However, they are still relatively minor and I hope to be back on form soon.
To add insult to injury, I had been preparing to write about how much I was enjoying cycling.
I have wanted to get on two wheels for years, but it never made sense while I lived in Dundee and worked in St Andrews. That was part of the appeal of moving to Edinburgh.
I have never been the greatest fan of driving. I only bought a car (reluctantly) because I struggled to find somewhere appealing to live near Dundee bus station. St Andrews – and Fife as a whole – isn’t the world’s greatest for transport links.
Since becoming a regular cyclist, I have come to realise just how much driving stresses me out. On the occasions I have had to drive rather than cycle, I have felt the rage pile up inside me as other drivers – all trying to do the same thing – conspire to make each other’s commutes as hellish as possible.
I am ceaselessly amazed by the creative ways drivers manage to block your path by finding a new route in to a box junction they should never have entered. Or the abject failure of a single measly one of them to let you out of a junction to turn right because it is OH-SO-IMPORTANT for them to be a few metres ahead in the queue.
It is true that I still have to deal with these wang-ends when I’m cycling. But the beauty of riding a bike is that it doesn’t matter so much if a car has unnecessarily plonked itself in the centre of a box junction. You can just ride on past.
I think there must be something about being in a confined, uncomfortable, often hot space that sets people on edge. It certainly makes me feel bad.
There is something pretty incredible about being outdoors. I really enjoy walking. Cycling is turning out to feel even better (although the time I knocked myself off didn’t feel great).
You get sunlight and fresh air. You are keeping active. These are all good for your mental health. The added bonus with cycling is that I am getting physically fit as well.
My current regular commuting route is incredible and makes me feel extraordinarily lucky to be in Edinburgh. It takes me through the Hermitage of Braid, a wonderful woodland that which runs alongside the Braid burn and keeps me away from traffic for the majority of my commute.
(Incidentally, my new regular lunchtime walk up Blackford Hill is also incredible, affording amazing views of this most beautiful city and beyond.)
A number of people have mentioned to me that Edinburgh is rather a hilly city, therefore surely not the ideal location for taking up cycling. (Dundee is not exactly flat either – certainly where I lived.) At first it did feel a little bit like I had bitten off more than I could chew.
But within weeks my confidence and fitness had improved enough for me to effortlessly scale hills that had been wiping me out to start with.
I have also gone on a couple of longer cycles for leisure, which I found very enjoyable.
The next step was to ramp myself up for Pedal for Scotland, a charity ride from Glasgow to Edinburgh. With some luck, I might be fit enough to take part when the time comes, but it is only a couple of weeks away.
Whatever, I fully intend on getting back on the bike as soon as I can.