It’s a warm early summer’s day, the sky is cloudless, and you’re cycling down the canal path alongside a pretty girl. Sounds like a dream date, right? And you know what, it could have been if it wasn’t for the fact I was on a date with the female equivalent of Lance fucking Armstrong.
I’ve never been a fan of cycling (yeah I know, why go on a bike ride as a date then? Desperate times guys, desperate times) mostly because as a child I was dragged on “fun family cycles” with a bike that had no gears, and my wee legs would be spinning round like a washing machine trying to keep up with everyone else. Ever since then I have avoided cycling at all costs.
So to say I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a bike ride date would be an understatement, but I decided that seen as I am now an adult and tall enough for a proper bike, I should just give it a go.
How strenuous can one wee bike ride along a canal be? The answer is very.
I’m honestly shook I’m still alive, I was about five more minutes of cycling away from death by exhaustion (I’m only being mildly over-dramatic here). But I’m getting ahead of myself, I didn’t just hop on the bike and start dying so let me start from the beginning.
My date had planned the cutest day ever, we would meet in town, get some scones and cakes from the local bakery, rent some city bikes and cycle down the canal until we found a good picnic spot. I left my house under grey clouds and cool winds, 40 minutes on the train later and I was greeted with blistering sunshine and not a cloud in the sky.
Suddenly, my thick black jeans and jumper seemed a bit much for the weather.
My date greeted me in some shorts and a sleeveless top and I was immediately envious of how nice and cool she looked compared to myself, who was now sweating profusely through my multiple layers.
I tore the heavy jumper off and shoved it into my backpack only to be confronted by the next problem, the sun. For those of you who don’t know what I look like let me fill you in; I’m the type of pale where my skin will burn if I’m out in 15 degree heat for longer than 20 minutes. My beloved friend Nikki over in India told me I’m so pale she could probably use me as a torch. You get the gist, I’m capser levels of pale.
So there I was in 23 degree sun, bare arms and face just slowly burning away. Luckily for me my date was also cursed with exceptionally pale skin and had brought a supply of suncream. There is honestly no good way to apply suncream.
It just isn’t sexy.
It’s not like on the telly when you see someone seductively rubbing cream onto their crushes back, it’s trying (and failing) to lift the edges of your clothes up so you don’t stain them whilst rubbing furiously to make sure your skin isn’t left with that weird white cast.
Sun cream applied, cakes and scones bought, and we were ready to go. I’d never rented a city bike before and as such hadn’t put much thought into the fact that they were made for use by adults. As an adult myself, I didn’t think that there would be a possibility of the bike being too big, but clearly I was wrong. We cranked the seat as low as it would go and still my stumpy wee legs just wouldn’t reach the ground. After 10 minutes of trying to will my legs to grow, I accepted the fact that actually I was just too short for the bike.
Enter my date saving the day again.
Her house was just a 10 minute walk away and she had an old bike from when she was a teenager that she was fairly sure I would fit on. She grabbed her city bike and we headed to hers to collect it. You’ll be glad to know that I managed (though only just) to reach the ground on this one. Was it still too big? Did I almost fall off every time I had to stop? Maybe, but at the time I thought it just added to the fun.
The first half of the bike ride was exactly as pictured, the path was flat, the breeze was nice and the canal was stunning. We stopped under a willow tree to have our picnic, and were about half way through when we saw the best thing ever; A PUPPY! Nothing and I mean absolutely nothing beats seeing an adorable wee puppy. Luckily for us the owners were more than happy to sit and chat with us while we fawned over the wee border collie. We ended up chatting away to them for over an hour, after which we decided we should probably give the puppy back *sigh* and continue with our bike ride.
I wish I had never left that damn willow tree with the adorable puppy.
For some reason I had failed to notice that the cycle down the canal was in fact, down. As in we had been cycling downhill the whole way, thus meaning the return journey would all be uphill. To my utter shock the uphill cycle wasn’t too bad, I eventually figured out what gear was good for uphill, and there was a part of me (the most minute part to ever exist) that was almost enjoying it.
Maybe my date sensed I was having too much fun or maybe she genuinely thought switching us to a harder route would be a good idea, either way her next decision did not sit well with me. Instead of going back along the canal she decided we should go the road. I hate cycling on the road. Everyone hates cyclists, they’re slow, they get in the way and they’re just too fragile to be on the same roads as buckets of steel that are going 40 plus miles an hour. Everything in me was screaming at me to say no, to tell her I wasn’t a confident cyclist and would prefer the quiet canal cycle path. But of course, as a people pleaser, I didn’t say any of that and instead agreed that the road would be a great idea.
The journey might not have been so bad if it weren’t for the fact my date suddenly became an olympic cyclist and tore off in front of me. Suddenly, I was trapped between falling behind and getting lost (and probably getting mauled to death by a car), and keeping up and looking like the most disgusting sweaty mess you’ve ever seen. Regretfully, I chose the latter. I have never felt a burn in my legs quite like I did that afternoon. I genuinely thought they might cease up and turn to lead at one point.
My lungs were screaming as I watched my date become a small dot in the distance, she peddled away with nothing but grace and ease, and there I was lagging behind her, heart racing from a mix of exhaustion and fear that a rogue lorry would crush me. Eventually, she realised I was no where to be seen and slowed down for me. We laughed off my now very apparent poor fitness levels and continued on. Finally, we were coming off the road. She zoomed round the corner and sped off up what she described as a “small incline”, it was not a small incline it was damn near mount Everest.
There is nothing, and I mean nothing, more embarrassing than getting half way up a hill and realising that you just aren’t going to make it. My legs had nothing left in them to give, and as I started to actually roll backwards I decided it was probably best to hop off and push the bike to the top. I was swathed in shame as she sat up top watching me lamely push the bike up. Clearly at this point she decided to take pity on me, and we switched routes once again. This one was mostly flat and downhill, and it made me think that actually I never needed to go up that damn hill in the first place.
Turns out I’m equally as bad at going downhill.
Lets just say my steering abilities left some to be desired. My cornering skills weren’t quite up to scratch and there was maybe a near miss incident with a little girl on a scooter. But let’s not dwell on that too much, after all no one died or was seriously injured. Our multiple detours meant we had lost track of time and I was now at risk of missing my train home. I now had no choice but to peddle as fast as my wee legs could go. My date took off with ease, there wasn’t one drop of sweat or one laboured breath coming out of her. The same could not be said for myself.
By the time we got back to the train station I had fully sweat through my t-shirt, my face was a lovely tomato red and I pretty much couldn’t walk or breathe. My date on the other hand was the picture of fitness, happily smiling away as she leapt off her bike. I’ve possibly never hated someone more than I did in that moment. We laughed off my terrible bike fitness and gave each other a very disgustingly sweaty hug goodbye. I cringed as her hand touched my now very damp back, and mentally accepted that there was no chance in hell she would want to see me again. But to my utter shock, as I sat on the train home a messaged pinged through to say she had had a great time and would love to see me again.