Satisfaction in getting back on bike

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The bigger the mishap, the better the story, I reminded myself, as I staggered to my feet and took a deep breath.

Until now, everything had been smooth sailing.

I was mountain biking along the Roxburgh Gorge Trail with Joe Sherriff and Jo Wilson, who had kindly lent me a bike and offered to show me new tracks being built at Flat Top Hill.

The sun was out, the mighty Clutha was gently flowing, and despite my initial fears I seemed to be fit enough to handle the track after all.

I had barely cycled since I left home several years ago, but I had hoped to find a mountain bike now that I lived near suitable terrain, and the ride was confirming just how much fun cycling at speed could be.

I had managed to get by without bothering too much about changing gears – I’m the first to admit I’m not a mechanically minded person – but it was starting to get slightly more difficult as we approached some larger hills.

I had been hospitalised before from over-exertion when a crippling case of rhabdomyolysis two years ago left me briefly incapacitated from severe muscle loss and kidney failure, and I still struggle to recognise when I have pushed myself too far.

And now, as I frantically tried to pedal uphill in the hardest possible gear, I had a sudden flashback to my time in hospital.

I was already out of breath, but the sudden memory off my illness came back with force, and I imagined the muscles in my quads breaking down all over again.

A combination of panic and exhaustion set in, and within seconds I was vomiting on the side of the track.

It was hardly my finest moment, but I was too tired to be embarrassed, and I was soon back on my feet and forcing myself to listen carefully as Jo explained the gears to me one more time.

The rest of the ride passed without a hitch – riding uphill was suddenly surprisingly manageable – and I imagined how satisfying it must feel to cycle all over the district and tear downhill at breakneck speed.

The track had just enough hills to keep things interesting without being too hard to manage, and it was lovely to listen to birds calling from across the river and to have the native plants pointed out to me as we rode along.

I was sad it was over when we arrived back at the beginning of the trail, but messaged my friend when I got back to the office to retell how the ride went.

“Guess what happened,” I started.

“Another flat tyre?” came the innocent reply.