Today I took the plunge and decided to join the rat race on two wheels. Gulp.
IT WAS WONDERFUL.
(That’s the conclusion. You don’t need to read the rest of this now).
I am completely and utterly obsessed with my bike. It’s a 100% head over heels love affair of the best kind. The freedom, the wind in your hair kinda vibe, the exhilaration, the actual FLYING you do downhill after groaning all the way up as your thighs burn and your teeth grit, the ridiculous satisfaction that comes from putting yourself in the correct gear soas to make it over the brow of a hill rather than toppling into the gutter at the first sight of an incline. It’s just incomparable. And of course it’s doing some lovely things for my blood sugars. We diabetics know that exercise is something we *should* do in order to win the good fight against a broken pancreas, and as such it’s usually the first thing to rebel against. But clambering onto my bike in the most ungracious manner of a morning doesn’t feel like a chore, like something I *should* be doing at all. It feels like some sort of all-conquering revolution against the endless counting, measuring and plotting we do to stay upright every day. Not one second on my bike do I spend thinking about my type 1 existence. It’s therapy for the mind, and for the soul.
Ok, I think I’ve made my point. Cycling rocks.
It’s always been this way, sort of. One of my earliest memories is of my Dad teaching me how to ride without stabilisers in the back garden. From my very first bright pink stabiliser number, with a basket on the front and a chair on the back for my favourite doll, to my first ‘grown up’ bike at the age of maybe eight – a magenta pink Apollo Pulse (Apollo is still going strong, btw) that gleamed in the sun and allowed me to keep up with my brothers as we raced through the fields near the house – I have absolutely wonderful memories of being on two wheels. But it’s something that I’ve neglected as an adult, apart from a short stint during my ‘turn’ as a village bumpkin in Yorkshire. Cycling in the capital was something I’d fleetingly thought about once or twice, but dodging traffic is pretty tricksy in this city as a pedestrian, let alone as a cyclist. So out of my head it went again.
But my trip to Australia in January and an impromptu bike ride one sunny evening over there stirred something in me, and within a week of landing back on the freezing UK soil, I had bought myself a shiny new toy. When I walked into the shop I had quite frankly ridiculous ideas of being one of those cool hipster cyclists; meandering along the streets of this fair city in normal everyday clothes, not breaking so much as a single bead of sweat, with a wicker basket on the front and sunny disposition akin to a Julie Andrews musical.
Walking out of the shop with a 20 inch beast in my hands (EY OH), it was immediately apparent that I was in fact going to be a huffing, puffing, panting, neon & lycra wearing, face covered in mud kind of rider who burns calories and gets a sweat on. I’m Ridin’ Dirty, like Chamillionaire baby. (Whooooo?)
I’ve never been so happy to get out of bed at 6.30am on a Saturday. At this beautiful hour, London is just waking up and I can claim the streets as entirely MINE. ALL MINE. Well, mine, alongside a few ravers, the street cleaners and a dustbin truck or two. But on the whole it’s like you’re privy to some magical, wonderful secret. Passing markets setting up their stalls, hearing the world wake up and feeling like you’re experiencing a London that no one else has seen is pretty special.
GUSH GUSH GUSH.
I’ve avoided the work commute until this point because I was enjoying life on two wheels as a leisure activity – taking my time, taking in the sights, getting lost seeing more in two hours on the bike than I would in two days/weeks/months ordinarily. But with a pretty daunting cycling-based challenge looming (more on that very soon) in five months, it’s time to up the ante. And what is there to like, really, about cramming like a tinned sardine onto a sweaty tube with your nostrils squished rather unfortunately into a stranger’s armpit? Welcome to the Northern Line everybody.
Onto the best benefit a type 1 can ask for… cycling is freaking AMAZING for blood sugars in my experience. Super duper wonderful awesome great. Mostly because I’ve discovered it’s highly unlikely I will have a hypo while out cycling, which gives me one less thing to be nervous about. Even on rides* that have lasted in excess of three hours (*ride. That’s only happened once), I haven’t needed any extra sugar, although I’ve always got that trusty cereal bar in my pocket, plus my debit card and ID incase I get into a pickle. Safety first, kids. What it WILL do is keep my metabolism up for a good 24 hours after I’ve got OFF the bike, and as a result my insulin doses are massively reduced. CHER-CHING. I also think this has a LOT to do with why my HbA1c came back in the 7s for the first time in a good couple of years last week, despite my existence being increasingly alcohol and carbohydrate-fuelled. I told you… magic.
So, having set my alarm only 15 minutes earlier than normal this morning, I hopped onto my beloved (oh WOW, the innuendos today) donning my finest flouro and went on my merry way in the GLORIOUS morning sunshine, reassured by a waking blood sugar of 8.4 and loaded up with emergency cereal bars, of course.
Bloody cereal bars.
I was tempted to have a little something to eat before I left without bolusing, but I’ve tried this before and the aforementioned slow burn of cycling, plus that wonderful dawn phenomenon that raises our sugars for no reason when we wake left me with a double-figured reading once I’d finished my route. Riding makes you thirsty enough; I didn’t want to be dealing with a high sugar as well, so I just got on the bike and started pedalling.
Yes folks, that IS what I look like first thing in the morning. Sorry about that.
Oh my it was sunny. SO sunny. I had air in my lungs (albeit London rush hour air, but it beats the armpit air any day) and I was AWAKE, as opposed to begrudgingly rolling out of bed, into the shower, onto the tube and arriving at work still not quite sure what day it is. No I was as bright as my luminous jacket, as comfy as the gorgeous Be An Athlete leggings I’d donned. These leggings, can I just say, are a dream to wear. They’re so soft, they moved with me and and I’m really hoping they stay that way after a few washes. That’s right, I’m now the girl that talks about sportswear and I own fluorescent clothing. I’m a changed woman.
It took me 35 minutes door to door (shorter in fact, than the sardine armpit journey), and thanks to a handy app on my phone I tracked exactly 10k. Me, myself, my city… and 5000 other cyclists. I soon learned that the cycling commuters are as ferocious as those barging their way onto the tube – if you don’t go the SECOND that green light tells you to, you’re going to get trampled like Simba among the hyenas. Poor, poor Simba.
Navigating the trucks/buses/super-fast cyclists was no different than normal. And because there were SO many of us in the two-wheel pack setting off at each light, I feel like there was actually less chance of a car not noticing me than normal. *Adopts David Attenborough voice* Witness, the fluorescent herd, united by their mode of transport, divided by their mode of transport. GET OUT OF THE WAY RIDICULOUS HIPSTER CYCLIST WITH NO HELMET AND EARPHONES IN SO YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON AROUND YOU OR HOW CLOSE THAT ARTICULATED LORRY JUST CAME TO YOUR CHEEKBONE YOU ABSOLUTE MORON.
I was on cycle lanes as much as I was on the roads. I enjoyed posh London, green London, and just as I got to Hyde Park corner… I was greeted by a pretty impressive sight:
London is cool ain’t it? All this before 9am. Bike 1, Tube 0. I’d also like to point that I did shower upon my arrival to work.
So cycling to work Day 1 = SUCCESS. And as I type this at my desk, all that remains for me to do now is to adopt my fierce, fluoro, filthy Queen of the Road alter-ego and get myself home.