What do you do with a jealous bicycle?
I once had a girlfriend who referred to her moped as "Horse". Strangely, I never met Horse, but I imagined something old and large, with plenty of character.
Bicycles are the same. Perhaps more so, because a bike is an extension of a person, a remarkably simple machine that converts leg movement into speed and distance. When all goes well, this occurs without thought. We don't consciously pedal or steer, any more than we consciously place one foot in front of another when we walk. We just think ourselves there and, hey presto, there we are, whether this is popping into the kitchen for a coffee or nipping down to Mozzers to restock the larder.
The personality of a bike comes from its strengths and weaknesses. My brown Raleigh, which is nearly twenty years old, is wonderful at slogging up hills, even when loaded with shopping or camping gear or anything else. He — oh dear, must we assign a gender? Yes, we must — he's not a sprightly young thing. But he keeps on going, come rain or shine. He might skip a gear from time to time, but he has eighteen of them, so we don't worry too much. Modern bikes have more, but eighteen seems enough for this old fogey.
Katie, my car, became terminally ill. She needed more TLC than I had been giving her, plus a wodge of cash. So I let her go to a more loving person who would give her a new and better life, and a lick of paint, and show her off as the classic Land Rover she is. I say I "let her go" because that sounds better than "sold". Imagine exchanging a member of the family for cash! Shocking, but that is what I did.
So I became car-free and now rely on my trusty brown touring bike for getting around. However reliable and well-maintained, a bike is a fragile beast, vulnerable to theft, vandalism or thorns in the paws. Sorry, tyres. Bikes take up hardly any room, so the obvious solution was a backup. Something similar, so wheels and other parts could be easily exchanged.
The internet is my friend, and I soon found one, another Raleigh. A twin of Brown Bike, as it turned out. They were born in the same place in the same month of the same year. But not an identical twin. This one is pearl white and ruby-lipstick red, and weighs nothing at all. Not a plodding tourist, but a racer. She is sexy. I'm sorry, but there it is. She's a fast, tight, sleek, turn-on-a-sixpence beautiful girl.
After tweaking the bars and saddle to suit me, we took a few turns around the village. I swear I heard another cyclist wolf-whistle. But she can't yet handle any luggage, so Brown Bike remains the workhorse.
I had hoped they would get on well together but sibling rivalry is a pernicious force. The official explanation is that I tripped up somehow as I was mounting Brown Bike and fell off the other side. And I think that I had become accustomed to the lightness of my new steed so when Brown Bike started falling, I misjudged the effort needed to keep her upright. But the romantic side of me insists that Brown Bike was jealous of the attention I was giving his sweeter sister, and he decided to teach me a lesson. Childish behaviour, I'm sure you'll agree, but understandable.
The paramedics dropped off Brown Bike at a friend's house, then carted me off to Addenbrooke's. They put screws in my hip that night, and taught me how to use crutches the next day.
That was three weeks ago. Only three more to go, and I'll be back on two legs and two wheels.
I'll have to regain my cycling strength on the new girl before fetching Brown Bike. I hope his incarceration has calmed him down. If he is spiteful and bad-tempered, he may have to go the way of Katie, and that would be a terrible thing.