Vicious Cycle

Up to the age of twelve, I was incapable of riding a bike. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, I abhor physical exercise. Secondly, we live on a hill so steep that cycling it would require Red Bull to live-stream the descent. Thirdly, my very limited skill-set does not lend itself well to a situation in which you need to stay on the correct side of the road, navigate roundabouts and distinguish left from right.

In 6th class it was deemed appropriate that we receive a Bike Safety course. Very troubling news for 12-year-old Niamh. I intimated in the first line of this post that I learned to cycle at age 12. That is not entirely true. Unless what you consider cycling is a gargantuan child taking advantage of the fact that all of the bikes were constructed for normal children and dangling her legs to the pavement. I walked the bike around and I was still falling around the place. I think the object of this course may have been adapted after my problems became clear. The obstacles in the exercises were replaced with the one task of avoiding the giant girl veering all over the yard. I like to think that I served a worthwhile purpose in the class, testing/terrifying my fellow students with every move.

During my teenage years I did as little as possible to threaten my terribly unreliable sense of balance.  I avoided; biking, roller-blading, ice-skating (actually did that once, cried), skateboarding, obstacle courses, walking, using chopsticks etc.

When in University in Galway my house-mates tried to get me to cycle but I was frightened by the roads and traffic lights and pedestrian crossings. However they did remind me that I actually could cycle, albeit with a distinct lack of poise or caution.

And so I came to Sweden. Emboldened by my Galway adventures and knowing that Sweden was famous for cycling I envisaged clean, wide cycle paths and motorists who don’t aim to maim/kill you. I also imagined myself cycling as gracefully as the girl in this video.

Lets just say one of these visions was accurate.

When I got here my lovely friend Julia lent me her spare bike for a few weeks. She had bought the bike early in her exchange and then realised it was nigh on impossible to cycle (the rickety state of the bike chain inspired the name ‘Lucy’). But I have to say I had a fondness for that bike, despite her many deficiencies.

However, one night out of the goodness of her heart Julia took pity on me and, as she wasn’t going out herself, offered me her own bike. Note to all – NEVER lend me anything. I call upon my dozens of destroyed phones and two broken iPods as character witnesses (I put one of the iPods through a cycle in the washing machine!) I also cannot seem to retain a house-key for longer than 3 months (much to my fathers annoyance).

So, oblivious to my impending doom I careered on down the cycle path. Due to parental and family readership of this blog I would like to politely bypass a description of the next few hours.

…I saw the pole a good 100 metres away (reading over this post I realise this is a very suggestive sentence to restart the story at). I called out “Oh no!”.

I saw the pole at 50 metres away. I flinched.

I saw the pole 10 metres away. I resigned myself to death. (“Why not use the brakes Niamh?” You ask. I wish I had an answer…)

The back wheels of the bike lept up so much that the basket was crushed by the pole. I took a picture of my bruises at the time but to be honest I don’t think anyone wants to see that (unfortunately not something I realised at the time – “Look at my leg everyone!”)

I think it is best that my burning passion (perhaps an exaggeration, but in light of my general attitude to physical activity it was pretty intense) for biking was extinguished before the ice came. It’s icy everyday now and I find just keeping upright while walking an issue! I will probably buy a bike in the Spring… but first I’ll learn how to use the brakes.

Bikes at the Train Station in Uppsala


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