You’ll find no naughty maid tales – or tails (!) – here. I’m a cyclist and Wifey Domestique is my alias. If you’re new to cycling and if you too cycle with your husband then I’m sure you’re smiling knowingly and air high-fiving me right now for such a fitting name. You may have even grunted these words to yourself between gasps for air as you pull your husband along behind you on a busy A-road. Or worse, your husband, like mine, has referred to you as this to all his friends over pints of beer, laughs and lewd comments at your expense. So for some of you this alias requires no further explanation, but for others, let me start from the beginning …
The last year has been a difficult one. Our middle son has been in and out of adolescent psychiatric units and has finally been given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Over the course of the year, our whole lives have been turned upside down and consumed by our son’s condition. We became stressed, angry and generally unfit – both mentally and physically. We decided that we needed to do something for ourselves, and my husband, who used to be an avid cyclist in his teens, knew just the antidote – road bikes!
I was more than a little dubious at first; I had only ever ridden a bike with a bell and a basket. And, I couldn’t ever imagine squeezing my wobbly bits into lycra with a built in nappy. I used to scoff at the ridiculousness of such gear as pelotons of middle-aged men in mankinis rode through our quiet village. But I knew we needed an escape and the allure of the beautiful countryside of the Cumbria/North Yorkshire border proved too strong. So rather reluctantly, at least at the beginning, I became a cyclist. That was March, 2016. A year on and Strava tells me I’ve clocked up 1,167 miles and have climbed 48,058 feet. What’s more, I love it!
The only slight downside is the fear, and this is where I get to my alias, just bear with me a little bit longer. I’ve managed to conquer the terrifying feeling of hurtling at high speed down hills; this is now rather exhilarating. And I’ve somehow pushed aside the recurring image of me flying over my handlebars and breaking my teeth (always a worry of mine, even when I’m walking down stairs). But one fear still lingers, fuelled no doubt by hideous stories, most recently told by a cycling friend who was thrown off his bike into oncoming traffic when his front wheel hit the back of his cycling buddy’s (he’s fine by the way – only a bit of road burn). It’s the fear of cycling at the back.
It’s not just that I lack the concentration to focus single-mindedly on my husband’s back wheel, noticing any slight adjustment in speed and adjusting my own accordingly (I’m too busy looking at sheep). It’s also the traffic. Queues of cars sit behind breathing down our necks, ready to pounce at the slightest opportunity. And then there’s the huge cattle lorries, passing a little too close and creating a wind tunnel which rocks my frame and forces me to close my eyes and pray that I’m going to stay upright. Basically, cycling at the back is for the brave; it’s not for me. Not yet anyway.
And so I have earned the title wifey domestique because I’m the one at the front doing all the work. I am to my husband what Geraint Thomas is to Chris Froome (well, almost … give or take about 30 mph). While my husband sits in my slip-stream, pedaling once for every 20 of my leg turns and enjoying the view (of my backside at least), I’m pushing through the wind, head-down, legs and heart pumping, desperately searching for the upcoming B-road onto which I can turn for a bit of respite.
Like me, I imagine there are many more wifey domestiques out there slowly building their confidence so that one day they too can sit back and enjoy the view. Until then, I hope you’ll follow me on my journey from bell and basket to base layers and balaclavas (if you haven’t cycled in the pitch black yet you’re in for a treat).
This blog is for the uninitiated female cyclist. It’s for those who still possess a bit of fear but who want to embrace cycling wholeheartedly and benefit mentally and physically. No topic is off limits, not nasty falls nor naff headgear, not even niggling nether regions!