#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 35

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 35

Day 35

I lather the oil on the saddle, massaging it lovingly as if it were alive. Slowly, the leather drinks in the solution, its colour regaining a more natural tone. It isn’t the prettiest of saddle any longer. Battered by every day rides, scratched by walls and other bicycles, it wears the scars of heavy use. I spray the frame with the cleaning solution I have. The bottle has felt empty for months but the liquid still glistens on the frame as a I apply it. Layers of dark grime stick to the cloth I rub down the tubes.

The white and red of the frame shine under the afternoon sun, revealing small chips of exposed frame. I wonder again if I should paint it anew. I probably should but I don’t fancy the job right now. The chain is a mess and I know I should replace it or at least clean it but I don’t. Just as the pandemic hit, I was about to send this bike for a service. I still intend to, only now it has to wait. Not that it matters hugely as I’m not riding it. What is it like to ride it? Can I remember?

I squeeze the tyres. They have softened and need some air. I wheel the bike out of the garden and rest it on the house wall by the bins and pump some air in. Soon the inner tubes have regained their strength and without thinking, I hop on the saddle and press down on the pedal. I switch it around, slide my foot in the cage, and propel myself forward. I’m cycling.

I am cycling.

I force my brain to shut down and pedal to the opposite end of the street into a dead end I never go to. I come back, loop into the main branch of the street, loop the roundabout at the end and come back to my house. I carry on. From my house to the roundabout and back and again. And again. The man cutting his hedge from a green garden plastic chair looks up during my fourth loop. I do not pause to greet him and push harder on the pedal. I am cycling into a headwind. Always a headwind.

I imagine panniers on the thin rack behind the saddle. Where could I go? Up to Gloucester? There is a campsite by a lake I’ve been meaning to check out. Into Somerset and well cycled roads? I have not made it past Taunton yet. Across the bridge to Monmouth or Fishguard? There is a tea shop I’d like to visit and the sea to dip my feet into. On the cycle path to Bath and towards Oxford? I don’t think I’ve ever truly been in the Chilterns.

But there are no panniers on my rack and there will not be any for a while longer. At the end of my fifth loop, I apply the brakes. The bike carries on for a bit. I should change the brakes but I have enough practice to make them last a while longer. I wheel the bicycle in the garden and rest it against an empty flower bed. I tap the saddle gently and step inside.

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