***written on Wednesday, so a little bit out of date now***
Last night, I cleaned my bike.
I always perform this chore in the same order. Frame in stand, top to bottom, plenty of soapy water. Remove the wheels. Get the toothbrush out for the chain and derailleurs, maybe resort to using some degreaser if things are getting clogged up. Clean the wheels, working my way round each side, quickly wiping each spoke. Scrub the cassette. Replace wheels, rinse. Air dry. Lube.
I quietly did this on the lawn. Snatched pieces of conversation drifted over from the radio in the kitchen. Dandelion seeds, carried in the gentle breeze stuck to the wet frame of my bike. The young birds that have had the garden almost to themselves for the last few weeks watched from a cautious distance.
The bike didn’t really need washing. Everything was functional, it wasn’t even dirty. There was a layer of household dust on the parts, a hint of dry salt on the top tube. The bike hasn’t been a bike for six weeks. I have sat on it, and pedalled, but it has taken me nowhere, other than away from distant mental storm clouds. Even then, the turbo will only ever be alcohol free beer, decaffeinated coffee, methadone.
The bike didn’t really need washing. This was a ritual. A clean start.
Six weeks ago, summer finally came, the memories of late snow, cold mornings and wet rides started to fade. Evening rides became something to be savoured and enjoyed, something to look forward to. Singletrack that was a joyless, muddy slog just a month beforehand was now riding perfection. Smooth, dry, fast. Buff. Each ride allowed me to lean over one more degree through bends, clip a little more foliage, carry another mph of momentum. Rides were a mix of enjoyment of the here and now, and optimism for what more was to come.
Six weeks ago, at the end of one of these rides, as we were well on our way home, I pushed my luck one too many times. Nothing crazy or stupid. Nothing I wouldn’t do again. Nothing. Except it wasn’t nothing. I fell, and as is usually the case when one falls, I landed. Quite awkwardly. On my shoulder. While lying on the floor, my mind was already racing… quantifying and calculating scenarios and consequences.
I stood up. The crack that I heard on landing was as I had feared. My left arm was hanging limply. I cupped the elbow without consciously thinking about it, concentrating on the taste of dust in my mouth, rather than letting my mind run away with the possibility that I would miss races and events that I have been planning for for the last 12 months. There was virtually no pain, just discomfort and a hollow, empty feeling.
Accident and Emergency. Pastel coloured walls. Waiting.
X-ray. Compound fracture. A trip down the road to LGI. “Major Trauma” ward. Surgery. Real pain. Helplessness.
Home. Concentrating on the day-by-day. Short scale horizons.
Walking to work, a short spin on the turbo, freedom from the sling. A short run, a longer run, an off-road run. Physio, core work. Daring to peek into the longer term. Six week isn’t long. I could have broken a leg, or my back or neck. I was lucky.
Today I took my clean bike, rolled down the road to the woods in the valley near my house. The trails were still dry and dusty. The smell of wild garlic was less pungent, but still there. I was off road for all of ten minutes, before returning to tarmac and carrying on into work. It was the best ten minute ride I have had for a very long time.