How Cycling Made Me Feel Free
Back in 2009, I had a clumsy climb out of my kayak, landing on the deck on my left hip, which left me in staggering amounts of pain. This led to constant leg/hip pain and backache. Several doctor’s appointments, consultant visits, 2 x-rays, and an MRI scan later, I was correctly diagnosed with bursitis in my left hip, a labrum tear, and facet joint deterioration in the spine, with added inflammation for good luck. At this stage, my cycling consisted of riding an old banger to the station and back for my work commute, a round journey of 3km.
I commenced a series of physiotherapy sessions, chiropractor visits, cortisone injections and was given Naproxen to reduce the inflammation and Amitriptyline to help me sleep. None of which worked, so I was referred to the Pain Management Clinic at Barts in London. To add to my woes, my station bike was stolen, never to be seen again.
Barts gave me injections to kill the nerve endings in my back, which effectively lessen the pain, but didn’t resolve the issue. My beloved gifted me with a Specialized hybrid bike around this time. And we went out on a few rides. He’s an ex-pro cyclist and meant well, but I couldn’t keep up. Too far, too fast, and too many hills. He got cross and I got upset, so gave that up.
But I persisted solo and often pootled down the towpath to Enfield Lock at weekends, which is a 10km round trip, with a lovely canal vista and lots of birds to see and photograph. Plus the added benefit of a couple of good cafes for those essential coffee and cake stops! I was content with that, but the bent-over position riding that style of bike did my back no favours, so I never really improved on my little 10km rides.
Fast forward to 2018 and I have added osteoarthritis to my troubles, which by 2019 has been “upgraded from” mild to moderate. Rod gifted me with another bike, a very heavy elderly German lady, no gears, whom I instantly fell in love with and named Brunhilde. At this stage, I was still on full medication and having my nerve endings killed every other year. But there was a personal sea-change. I made the decision that I wasn’t going to succumb to “old lady” and set about researching what could be done.
Every website commended swimming and cycling, and so I got cracking. I swam a couple of times a week until I could swim 78 lengths, a mile. Plus I was out on Brunhilde most weekends, each time daring myself to go a little further.
In the summer, I was out by 6 am, flying down the towpath towards London, until I could reach Tottenham. Then Hackney, and eventually central London itself. I rewarded myself with delicious Full English breakfasts en route. I stopped taking all medication and replaced it with cod liver oil, Vitamin E capsules, glucosamine, and a multivitamin, all of which I am still taking to this day. I couldn’t believe the difference cycling made to my knees. The pain had gone.
I had gradually worked my way up to longer rides, and over Easter 2019, I cycled 50km on each of the 4 days of the holiday. What glory! Better still, the sit-up-and-beg style of the Dutch bikes meant my back no longer ached, and I was comfortable in the saddle for several hours at a time, with no ill effects. No hills, of course, they’re impossible on a 20-kilo bike with no gears, but I cared not a jot…
I’m 55 years old, and live with Fatso the Catso in Cheshunt, Herts. Having been made redundant from the hospitality industry, I’ve had the opportunity to cycle more regularly. My dream bike is a Pashley with a Brooks saddle.