A journey to cycling success

Being in control of two wheels and a bell can sometimes be asking for trouble, writes Sofia Johanson

Sofia Johanson

Negotiating the waves of wheels flooding Cambridge's streets can be tricky businessInstagram: @bobbinbicycles

The phrase ‘it’s as easy as riding a bike’ used to cut me to the very core. This is because I, unlike the rest of the universe, could not remain upright on a cycle before coming here. However, I was determined to change this. I wasn’t about to let something with two wheels and a bit of rust defeat me.

First things first, I had to buy a bike. So off I went to the cycle shop, dragging my parents along for backup. After revealing myself to be an amateur, the staff members demanded they see the spectacle with their own eyes. There are few moments more mortifying than, as an 18 year old, having your father stabilise you on a creaking old frame, all whilst your mother humiliatingly captures the moment for eternity with a video posted immediately on her Facebook. Perfect. Now imagine the sheer embarrassment flooding over me as an eight-year-old glides past, smirking irritatingly as she pedals over the horizon. Yet, despite developing some mild trauma from the whole occasion, I did bag myself my very own bicycle.

“Although I still rock a hideous helmet, I am now an accomplished cyclist”

The first week with my new equipment was, however, no less than harrowing. New friends hurtled away from me as I clung onto the handlebars, dreading any traffic lights, vehicles, or right-hand turns. In fact, any stretch of road occupied by any other person or object posed a serious threat to my physical (and mental) stability.

I almost caused numerous accidents in those early days, back when I was fuelled by a cocktail of pure panic and adrenaline. From leading a convoy of students the wrong way down a one-way street to misjudging the length of my bike and therefore cutting up (almost literally) someone as I swerved into Sidgwick, I was a liability.

Fast forward to today and you wouldn’t even recognise me. Although I still rock a hideous helmet, I am now an accomplished cyclist. In fact, I’m so confident in my pedalling that I float effortlessly amongst the traffic, ignoring the abuse hurled at me, claiming I’m “on the wrong side of the road”, that I’m “going to cause an accident”, or that I’m a “****” and a “****** *****”. I’m sure they’re all just jealous.

Maybe you’ve even seen me with your very own eyes. I was probably swerving between unaware pedestrians on King’s Parade, or shooting the wrong way down Trinity Lane whilst mocking those who actually walk to lectures. All of this is executed with one hand resting on my lap, just because I can. There’s nothing like the thrill of being an absolute irritant, all whilst occupying the moral high ground – at least my form of transport isn’t killing the planet.

Seeing as bike shelters are overrated, I opt for chaining my bike to a lamppost. I then pull it round so that it obstructs the entire pavement, or better yet, splays across the road, forcing cars to swerve around my precious hunk of maroon-painted metal. I unlock my bike, judging everyone around me for the crime of being foot-bound, and mount it for the 30 second journey from Mainsbury’s to my accommodation. Again, just because I can.


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I don’t remember the last time I walked anywhere; as far as I’m concerned, the council can scrap the pavements and convert the roads into one hefty cycle lane. Then, at long last, the true athletes of this place can unite as everyone else faces the onslaught of whining bells and squealing brakes closing in on them.

Please excuse my manic arrogance. The last 5 weeks without Brenda the Bike, and the self-worth that comes with her, have been rough. I’m frankly thrilled it’s now time to pump up her wheels – and my ego.