Simon’s Cycle Shorts are now available to buy in both paperback (£8.39) and Kindle (£2.99) editions from Amazon. HERE
I always know when it’s happened. I don’t have any strange sixth sense or anything like that; there are a couple of signs that tell me that all is not right. I first feel it when the back door latch lifts – the small hesitation of movement as the door opens because he’s resting on the handle. If it’s a particularly still morning I can hear him moving gingerly about the kitchen before coming out for the ride. In those first few moments my suspicions are roused. And, on such days, when he finally emerges from the house I just have to see his face to know that I’m right.
Every weekend morning as the sun begins to colour the day, I wait with chilled anticipation for our ride – I never know where we’re going and I don’t know who we’re going to meet – but after five days locked in the shed I just can’t wait to get out. Every Saturday and Sunday we go out to the hills and, for the sheer pleasure of it, we ride. Without fail, we never get back until his lunch is cold – our ride always takes longer than he thinks they’re going to. But she doesn’t seem to mind too much.
We’ve been together for three years now and I think I’m here to stay – his previous bike didn’t last very long but he’s looked after me well and kept me properly serviced to the point where I don’t think that he’ll be getting another bike; we even have two sets of wheels – one set for the winter and another lighter, more expensive set for the summer.
By the time he has lifted a leaden foot over the back door step I’m beginning to brace myself for the long wincing walk down the garden path that follows on days like these. In case you hadn’t realised, Glenn suffers from a chronic back problem – ‘low grade isthmic spondylolisthesis’ as he once described it to another cyclist. The result is two herniated discs which occasionally flare up and cause him intense pain. The suffering he endures from simply walking down the garden path would send anyone else back to bed crying to their God for forgiveness for whatever it was that they had done so wrong. It looks like some wretched ex-lover, needle in hand, is stabbing at the spine of a lycra doll.
But Glenn never turns back. Tall, fit, lean Glenn continues his miserable hobble to the garden shed and, after spending a full ten minutes painfully unlocking me from my prison, he pushes me to the rear gate and then out to the road – his hands shake at the repeated twinges. Eventually I’ll be sat next to the kerb and he’ll go through his preparation to climb on.
The first time this happened I feared the worst. I was convinced that at this point we would collapse to a painful heap at the side of the road and that we’d lay there twisted and incapacitated until the milkman or an inquisitive dog walker found us. That first time it seemed to take an age for him to pluck up the courage to attempt to ride me – but I think he knew something. I think he knew something that no doctor or back specialist or smart alec sports physio would even think was possible for someone in his condition. Most of them know little about the realities of back pain; the sleepless nights, the useless painkillers, the contorted body shapes. They only ever see a patient when he or she is free enough of pain to ‘present’ themselves in front of them….that band of highly-paid National Health professionals who care little for an apparently fit bicycle riding patient, who is unlikely to die of their complaint (yes, they seem to consider that back pain sufferers are complainants), and whose outward appearance is fine. There is almost the hint that back sufferers who cycle are, in some way, responsible for their troubles. Glenn doesn’t like doctors any more than he likes the burning pain he suffers. No, Glenn has worked out that riding a bicycle was the best ever prescription, and that the exertions to reach this point at the back of the garden would be rewarded.
Stood waiting here, I’m well aware that this is the most painful part; it takes all of Glenn’s will to lift his leg around the saddle so that he can stand astride me, his hands gripping my bars as if his life depended on it. I can sense the coruscating tension of those erector spinae muscles in spasm as they grip his lower back with the intensity of a fighter’s fist and shoot pulsing pains down the sciatic nerve into the core of his right leg. Bravely, he lifts his left foot and cleats it to the pedal as if trying not to let his back know what we are about to do, and then, with a sharp intake of breath and another wince of pain, he pushes us away.
The first few seconds are equally intense as he raises his backside to the saddle and slides it back. Then follows another brief moment of concern as he attempts to click his right foot into the other pedal. Success! We are off.
With the slow increase in speed, I feel those same lower back muscles start to relax; their job of supporting his arms head and torso over his pelvis is done for now. Hands and pelvis now take the strain away from his back now suspended between the two; even the pain in his leg subsides. More pressure on the pedals only increases the relief; the road is now ours and Glenn is beginning to smile. We won’t stop until we return home because dismounting and walking is too painful – but, until that time, we can climb the twisty hills and speed down the valleys walls without so much as a tweak from his back.
However much it hurts me to see Glenn in so much pain on these early mornings, I know that the struggle out of the back door is always worth it.
Simon’s Cycle Shorts are now available to buy in both paperback (£8.39) and Kindle (£2.99) versions from Amazon. HERE