Ok so the title is a lie. I am far from a bicycle or indeed a cyclist. In fact I was pretty shit at it. After 8 years of trips to the Netherlands I have comfortably avoided all contact with bicycles and peddle power – I was quite proud…until now.
Let me talk you through the emotions, pains and fears of climbing on two wheels in a country who do so everyday with such elegance and style.
First thought – F*ck!
I kind of told a little white lie that I could ride a bicycle and yeah in a gym or as a child I could confidently say that. Until I got asked to prove it. Forgetting that I’m only 5ft4, or 1.64m for you european readers, you can easily forget that you are at a disadvantage when the average height in the country is 1.82m it means that everything is a little too high and in this instance the saddle. Learning to jump on on two moving wheels held together with a flimsy metal frame didn’t instil much confidence in me but when in Rome (Holland). With the whole street watching the show and responding to my screams and near misses with cars I started to trust the handlebars wouldn’t shift my centre of balance and knock me off if I moved them.
Second thought – Ouch!
You’d think cycling would take its toll on your thighs but surprisingly for me mine did just fine. The problem for me was a very hard and narrow saddle which at one point convinced me that I needed to see a doctor. The cobbled winding streets of Dordrecht didn’t help this pain much and I’m still convinced that I have in some way been violated.
Third thought – Get in!
When you’ve found your stride, with the wind blowing through you hair and you start to trust yourself to look both left and right without fearing imminent death it really is a great feeling. The Dutch girls make it look so easy and so graceful. I can’t get of a bicycle so effortlessly or indeed make anything look so easy but for just one moment, in the height of my confidence I felt like I was flying with my imaginary cape wafting behind me.
Fourth thought – Ew!
With the wind drying ones sweaty brow and over sized sunglasses to hide the look of constant fear its not until you get off from the bike that you realise the work out it really is. Thankful for drinkable tap water and a condensed can of deodorant in ones bag if at any point i managed to feel chic and elegant that was well and truly lost from the moment I feel from my two wheeled punisher.
I think its safe to say I’ll never be a cyclist. I’ll never look elegant or chic and I’ll always be an overweight tourist trying to hard to assimilate. Well done Dutch folk. You’ve got one on me there although part of me believes that if i were (which I’m not) planning on doing it ever again it might not be quite as daunting.