If you’re a regular user of the Luton & Dunstable Busway, or maybe the cycle track running alongside, you might have spotted the Reluctant Cyclist. But who is she? Well, she has been seen early on Sunday mornings in a bright yellow jacket having a pre-breakfast huff and puff. You may have heard her singing along to some praise music, although she does point out this is only through one ear piece and only on the Busway. If you have seen a cyclist dashing through the barriers without even needing to slow down, that could well have been her.
It has to be said she is not “at one” with her bike although you might think so from the photo. It’s not actually her bike, she doesn’t own one. Instead this bike is “borrowed” from a certain daughter who doesn’t really like it being used by other people, so it tends to be done when she’s able to sneak out unseen. The helmet? That’s not hers either: it’s secretly borrowed from another eldest daughter. The yellow jacket? No, that’s not hers either but you might guess who that is borrowed from.
The Reluctant Cyclist takes some time to get the saddle lowered to the correct height, so again you might spot her doing this. She’ll wobble to a stop, get off and look seriously at the saddle. She means business here. Next stage is lowering the saddle with a “ah yes I remember how to do this” and quick as anything, the saddle is lowered and she’s off (although further adjustments on the way cannot be ruled out).
You’ll notice those fluorescent trouser bands; these came from those nice people in Travel Choices who are always full of encouragement for the Secret Cyclist, often popping in for a natter. Another clue is that she has gradually become acquainted with many other Busway cycle track users – other cyclists, dog walkers and so on. Do you know her? Have you seen her? Have you chatted to her?
The ever-mindful husband?
As the dutiful and hopefully ever-mindful husband I well remember clocking a certain message from time to time. The message was along the lines of “did you know I hate riding bikes” often followed by “this is the last time I’m EVER riding a bike” or even “don’t ever think of suggesting a bike ride because in case you hadn’t noticed I hate riding bicycles”. You get the drift? Whenever I heard these subtle hints I would always be accommodating and would never push the idea of a bike ride. You can imagine, in the interests of marital harmony such suggestions can only be made sparingly, if at all. Suggesting a bike ride at the wrong time could take months to recover from. And yet it seems I may have not noticed a gradual softening of the Reluctant Cyclist’s stance…..
Is it her being resigned to being married since sometime back in the last Century to a cyclist who can’t bear not to cycle? Is it an acceptance of the bits of smelly, sweaty and ponging Lycra cycle clothing continuously filling up the laundry basket? Could be. Could it be receiving a copy of a Women’s Cycling magazine for Christmas and being gracious about the thoughtful gift? These are all encouraging signs.
Now she will go out willingly for a cycle ride with no nudging, cajoling or anything like that. There’s even talk of getting a bike for herself! Can you imagine that? The Reluctant Cyclist is indeed on the look out for her own bicycle, or perhaps something via Travel Choices.
And cycling with the Secret Cyclist
You might already have noticed I have been cycling every day over the Christmas holiday. Turns out one of those rides was actually with the Reluctant Cyclist. To be honest I was feeling a little apprehensive, wanting to get the balance right in being an encouragement but not to go too far and be patronising in any way. We set off, with the Reluctant Cyclist in front and with the wind behind us we were cruising through our neighbourhood at 20 mph.
“Don’t forget there’s a speed limit of 20 mph”
“Hah they’ll never catch me!” and changes into a higher gear. A quick look over her shoulder and then darted off in another direction. Up onto the pavement and then a handbrake turn into a side alley
“Wait for me! Where are we going?” and I can tell you I was getting lost, even in our own neighbourhood. Our very own Reluctant Cyclist was zooming through the houses, around parked cars, up and down slopes and then out onto the Busway. Well that was something seeing the Reluctant Cyclist making her way through our own urban jungle. We rode a couple of miles at a reasonable pace and then turned around, heading back to downtown Dunstable and facing the wind. As we went along I was delighted; many people giving her a wave and a friendly “hello”.
It might have been my shortest cycle ride of the Christmas holiday, but it was thoroughly enjoyable going out with the Secret Cyclist!