Wednesday, 16 November 2011


When I was a kid I had a bike. It was a big, red, shiny bike. It was a Raleigh Grifter, no less, which is probably the heaviest and most cumbersome bike that has ever taken to the road. It was also the 1970s - the era of Evel Knievel, daredevil stunt rider - and like any young boy of the time, I spent all my time building ramps in the street, pulling wheelies, and jumping off whatever high surfaces I could find. I broke a number of bones (my own, and those of my friends), and found myself in a lot of ditches (a habit which was going to repeat itself throughout my adult life), but like a big red shiny stallion, my Raleigh Grifter always stood waiting, silent and ready, for the next bone-shaking stunt.

Recently, at the age of forty, I learned to drive, and bought my first ever car – a Citro├źn Saxo – and did pretty much the same thing with that. Unfortunately, the Saxo was neither as heavy or as – let’s have it right – HARD as the Grifter, and within a matter of weeks it was a trembling wreck; a mere shadow of its former self.

It occurred to me today that recovery from alcoholism is much like riding a bike. When I first got the bike I had no idea how to ride it, but someone showed me the basics and off I went. After a couple of minor injuries I picked up confidence. Now I could do it with no hands. Confidence was replaced by cockiness, playing chicken with the traffic and pulling wheelies left right and centre. Squares and highway code fanatics would wag their disapproving fingers and mutter: “pulling wheelies is not for the likes of us”, or “I’ve had this bike for thirty years and I still don’t claim to know how to ride it,” or “you think you know all about bike-riding, but one of these days you’re going to come off your bike, and then you’ll be sorry”.

Well, I’ve come off my bike a few times now, but am I sorry? No. No I’m not. I love my bike and can’t wait to get back on it; to go racing off into the distance looking for the next death-defying leap. If you ask me, that’s what bikes are for.

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