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ON THE OTHER HAND: Joys (?) of cycling

Peter Laurie

ON THE OTHER HAND: Joys (?) of cycling

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For thirty years, I pounded the pavement as I kept in shape to run 10Ks, a few half marathons and one marathon.
And then eight years ago, my left knee broke down and I had to stop running. This is not to warn anyone off running. My knee went because I’d suffered a severe injury but never went to a doctor and had it checked out; just stopped running for several months. Bad idea!
Anyhow, all I can do now is swim and cycle.
Swimming sucks. It’s boring.
So I’m stuck with cycling. The problem is I keep comparing cycling with running, which I shouldn’t.
Running is far more sociable, if you want it to be. Some of the most enjoyable running I did was with Omowale Stewart and his bunch of enthusiasts when we trained at the Cave Hill campus and along the new 2A Highway back in the late 1980s. We talked, heckled and encouraged each other, and exchanged running experiences in which the truth was occasionally stretched.
We had fun.
Riding is different. You can carry on a conversation; but it’s difficult and potentially dangerous.
Running is more relaxing. Your whole body moves, finds its rhythm, and allows your mind to get into the zone. On a bike, you’re fixed in one position. After an hour, cycling becomes literally a pain in the tail, and your neck, shoulders and arms become tensed.
While I’ve often experienced “runner’s high” as those endorphins flood the bloodstream and rush to the brain, I’ve never experienced a high while riding – except on Chimborazo.
But . . . there you are. I’m stuck with riding and I might as well enjoy it.
Cycling has its own advantages: you can travel farther with less effort, so you get to see parts of the country you didn’t know; you enjoy the exhilaration of speed you don’t get with running, unless you’re Usain Bolt; it’s easy on the knees for geezers like me; and, most of all, you can enjoy the hills.
Yes, hills. It’s the most exciting and challenging part of riding: climbing a long hill that varies in steepness. It took me three attempts before I made it over Horse Hill without stopping. Then, I figured out it’s all to do with pacing yourself. At my age, I can’t power over hills, so I don’t hesitate to get into my “grandpa” gear on the steep bits.
I now move around the east of Barbados looking for challenging hills. These are hills that have steep bits but also easy stretches that let you recover.
Horse Hill is a classic because you start with a short steep hill up from the beach; then settle down to a long slog of varying intensity; and finish with the steepest part at the very top.
Other interesting hills are the hill up from Bath beach, the beautiful climb up from Belleplaine to Welchman Hall, and, another favourite, the really rustic route up from St Andrew’s Church to Turner’s Hall via Walkers.
There’re days, of course, when I feel like a pleasant easy ride on the flat. The East Coast Road [Ermie Bourne Highway] is perfect for that. I just changed bikes. I used to have a mountain bike and did a fair amount of off-road riding in the cart tracks in St John. This sturdy Haro served me faithfully for eight years.
Then, Martin Taylor, of Taylor’s Cycle Centre persuaded me to move up to a Raleigh hybrid road bike. It’s a beaut, because it’s light, has narrow high pressure tyres which give you more speed, 27 gear combinations, and best of all has the straight handlebars that let me sit more upright. But you do require a good road surface.
Although I miss running, I’m gradually putting that part of my life behind me and just enjoying cycling for what it has to offer.
After all, isn’t that what life is all about?