Today I said goodbye to Ripley.
About three years ago I used the Cycle to Work Scheme to buy a Ridgeback Speed: a clunky hybrid with a grey step-through frame, triple chain set, 18 gears and a lovely cushioned seat. I wasn’t a very confident cyclist, but I couldn’t afford to keep getting the bus from Henbury to Clifton, and decided it would be a great way to inject a bit of exercise into my daily routine.
Along came Ripley. I had three free lessons from Life Cycle UK to help me learn to ride confidently on the roads, indicating and checking over my shoulder, and then I was off! A great uphill battle ensued, quite literally, as I took on the hilly terrain of Bristol.
In the beginning I got off and walked up the hills, and rode the brakes all the way down. Gradually I learned to let go of the brakes a little (this was pre-MTB accident) and learned to sit and spin for a little while before continuing to ascend on foot. I do regret that I never did master cycling up Falcondale Road before we moved to Kingswood.
But the new route brought its own new challenge in the form of Park Street. Again I spent a long time walking up the hill and feeling very impressed at the number of cyclists who overtook me. Eventually I decided I’d tackle it one step at a time, with each day bringing new progression. What actually happened was on day one I made it all the way to the top, and I’ve never had a problem since. Turned out I was fitter than I thought.
For around three years I rode Ripley almost every day. My confidence on the roads improved, as did my fitness. I started taking her on longer journeys, along the B2B to Bath, down by the canal, through the Two Tunnels, on a loop to Cleveland, from Exeter to Plymouth via Dartmoor… We had some great rides together.
We also had some terrible ones, which resulted in bruised egos and bruised skin. The first time I fell off her was right at the beginning, when I got a bit cocky descending Henbury Road and allowed myself to pick up enough speed to just make the light before it went red. Unfortunately I hadn’t at this point learned that the bike follows the eyes, and I didn’t quite make the angle when turning right at the bottom, resulting in me hitting the curb at high speed and flying over my handlebars in quite a spectacular fashion. Remarkably not one person stopped their car to ask if I was okay.
The next few falls were also entirely my own fault, slipping over in ice or approaching a curb at a silly angle. I was definitely turning out to be a clumsy cyclist and was almost relieved when I had my first altercation that involved another vehicle, because finally it wasn’t my fault. Thankfully no broken bones just yet, just silly drivers not checking their wing mirrors before deciding to suddenly take a detour into another lane. The saddest occasion was when I had my birthday cake strapped to my rear rack, and a man with no sense decided to drive into the back of me, resulting in a slight squash.
Generally though she served me very well for three years, and helped me to fall in love with cycling. Obviously I’ve since fallen head over heels in love with Regina, but taking Ripley on that last ride this morning really helped me to appreciate how easy and pleasant she is to ride. I hope wherever she ends up, she offers someone else the opportunity to build their confidence and fall in love with cycling.