The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Am I in the midst of a mid-life crisis?

Am I in the midst of a mid-life crisis? Perhaps to everyone else it’s been obvious for years: I’ve changed my career, moved house and area, lost vast amounts of weight and become far more aware of my own mortality – all this while still in my 30s. But while I have played up the notion of mid-life crisis man for attempted comic writing effect, part of me has wondered whether it was really true or not.

However, undeniable proof is now staring me in the face. No longer can I pretend that the hair growing out of my ears and nose is a temporary anomaly; or that trimming my beard shorter was for practical reasons rather than any desire to knock a few years off my appearance; nor that my yearning for a bright red two-seater sports car just came from watching too much Top Gear on TV. Irrefutable evidence of the male menopause in action has finally presented itself.

My wife and I have just bought my 40th birthday present for next week. Despite not having been near one for more than two decades I am now the proud owner of a brand new bicycle.

For some time I’ve been toying with the prospect of getting a bike to improve my general health and fitness. The pleasant summer we’ve had this year has probably helped conjure up a sense of freedom, cycling in beautiful countryside, filling my lungs with fresh Scottish air while toning an athletic body. Nostalgia for the long cycle rides of childhood, down country lanes with my pals, puncture repair kit at the ready, has made the whole idea quite exciting.

But times have changed since the days of 2nd hand bikes that cost £2 and had a rusty shopping basket on the front: cycling now appears to be a serious pastime that costs serious money.

I’m never intending to be a professional, entering triathlons or the Tour de France; all I need is something basic that will support an overweight man, with a saddle that won’t have me singing soprano for the rest of the week. I figured £100 was a reasonable budget.

So I’m immediately taken with the special offer bikes Halfords has at the entrance to their store, which should have been £199 but are half price. All I need to do is find someone to help me decide what size I require: being short in the leg, most adult bikes are far too big for me, even with the saddle in the lowest position.

A passing lad wearing a Halfords shirt, who is 6 ½ feet tall but looked like he hasn’t started shaving yet, duly pulls the bike off the rack, adjusts the saddle height and, after I rather self-consciously straddle the bike in the middle of the shop, I agree to take it. But what’s this – I also get a £20 accessory voucher thrown into the bargain too? It’s my lucky day.

Well, what kind of accessories do I need? Of course these days everyone wears a helmet don’t they? No one wore them when I was a kid - we had to put up with cracked skulls and be thankful about it – but in these more safety conscious days I guess they’re a necessity. Unfortunately the helmets for £7.99 are basically a lump of polystyrene with a dayglo yellow sticker that looks cheap and nasty. £30 seems to be the least I can pay for something that doesn’t announce to the world that I’m a cheap bastard.

Then there are lights. I’m not planning on doing any nighttime riding, but it’s all about being seen in low visibility, so a set of flashing LED front and rear lights are obviously a minimum requirement. At least they’re reduced by £5 in the sale.

What’s that? A lock? Oh, I suppose so. I wasn’t planning on riding it to work and tying it to the railings, but I guess some kind of safety lock is always needed. Do I want one that will stop the casual thief or the determined one? How on Earth am I supposed to know the demographics of the criminal population of South West Scotland? This is turning out to be more expensive than I thought. I’ll go for a mid-range one – a bit thicker than string, but not one that includes its own concrete block to tie your bike to.

Hang on a sec, where are the mudguards? What do you mean they’re extra? I would have thought they were as fundamental as the bell. You don’t get a bell either? Or a tyre pump? Well clearly there’s no point in getting a pump if I’m not going to buy a puncture repair kit to go along with it. Do you sell spoons to lever the tyre off too? Oh, you have a fancy tool for that, do you? And an all-in-one spanner kit for removing the wheels. And a spare inner tube too?

Enough. Hold it right there. At this rate I’ll need a large rucksack to carry everything I need just in case of an emergency! Yes, I can see that you sell them as well. No. Stop. Forget the pump and stuff. I’ll only cycle within walking distance from home to begin with.

Along with the 3-year maintenance plan I’ve now spent more on the accessories than the actual bike.

So, let me see. We’ve spent over twice the amount we budgeted for on a piece of outdoor sporting equipment for one of the least sporting people in the universe, at the onset of winter, in Scotland. I haven’t even considered proper clothing other than the fact that there is no way you will ever, ever, ever get me donning a pair of lycra cycle shorts.

All this to try and recapture some sense of lost youth and demonstrate a need to be seen as a virile and potent member of the tribe.

Is it working? Can I remember how to stay upright on a bicycle? Have I come to realise that I’ve been missing out on a joyous activity all these years? I don’t know yet. With shopping and kids already in the car I couldn’t fit the bike in the back, so I’ll not be picking it up until later in the week.


Stella said...

Kim, that was SO funny!!! You should DEF submit this one!

Having spent so much money you now HAVE to use it, you do realise that? And promise us, if you do relent and buy the lycra shorts - a photo, ok?

Kim Ayres said...

Thank you Stella. I'm afraid the submission date was Sunday past, so it's too late.

You can rest assured that there will never, ever, evarrr be a picture on this site of me wearing lycra shorts.

quinn said...

Ha that is excellent...I laughed alot.
a piece of advice..stick to walking....although round where I live now it is a big social thing. You have to wear the right shoes,clothing,jackets, have the proper belt with water bottle attachments etc .etc. ...dont you love marketing.

The funniest thing here along this line of conversation is a place called the running room...alot like the walking social clubs but now they jog or run around the neighbourhoods in groups.obviously ,,for safety this is of benefit..but the part I laugh at time and time how they all DRIVE over to the store location and then go running and then come back and get into their cars and DRIVE BACK HOME.

SafeTinspector said...

Very funny! You could get a wee trailer for the bike and tote your tots with you...

I had a friend that got the bike bug. When he'd show up with his skin-tight, brightly colored suit, complete with space helmet and water bladder on his back, he looked for all the world like some B-grade action figure.

All the money that boy spends on his bike stuff...

Attila The Mom said...

Well happy birthday, Kim! This was wonderful!

Kim Ayres said...

Quinn - you have to have the right accessories for walking? Now that is scary!

SafeTinspector - we saw one of those trailers, but considering my son is now almost 5 feet tall, maybe I should consider a tandem - he's old enough to contribute to the running of things.

Attila - thank you, but my birthday's not until next week :)

Anonymous said...

I think you would look splendid in an all-hugging, body-snugging lycra suit! Once you get in it, you may not ever want to take it off.

Good stuff, Kim!

Your story reminded me of when I bought a bicycle here in Japan, that looked red under the fluorescent lighting of the shop. It was only when I left the department store for the bright sunny day outside, that I discovered my new purchase to be in fact a bright, hideous, very girlish pink!!! I rode that ego-breaker, with its chrome basket at the front for six months. When I left Japan, I gave it to a female friend of mine, who was delighted.

R2K said...

: )

BStrong said...

I feel as if I'm in the same boat my friend. I too am in the market for a bike. The one that I've been looking at is a Trek 2100 which is a bit expensive and I tend to buy things just to have them sit around to gather dust. I'm letting this purchase simmer for a bit to see if I will still be interested in a month from now.

So you've discovered YouTube. I only wish that my company can loose $20 million in one year and be attractive enough to Google to be bought for $1.65 billion.

eva said...

Hahahaha - very funny post!

And worrying, as I'm planning to buy a bicycle myself. I actually asked a friend of mine for tips a few months ago - since he's really into biking, I thought it would be helpful, but the looooong list of things to think about that he provided me with has put me off so far.

I thought it would be easy too!!??

Funny how the world managed to turn around before this commercial merry-go-round started...? Now it seems we can't do anything without all kinds of totally crap - sorry I of course mean Absolutely Necessary - accessories.

Forget having an easy life!

quinn said...

Happy Birthday to you for next week. 40 was a hard one for me. I did not think it would bother me but in fact it really did. 41 and 42 were a whole lot easier to accept LOL.

I have been doing alot of thinking myself..what is it about mid life that that makes us stop and think about things so it the years that have past? or is it the years we hope to have left?

Well, the good news is so long as we are still having birthdays we aren't dead!!!!

All the best hope you have a wonderfull 40th birthday !!!!

( arg and three times trying to get this darn word verification typed in properly )

Kim Ayres said...

Branden - fluorescent lighting can indeed deceiving. Back when I was in full-on businessman mode, I once bought what I thought was an impressive charcoal suit only for it to turn out to be a less than impressive brown. Still, at least it wasn't pink...

Alex - welcome to my ramblings!

BStrong - I've sent you an email suggesting how you can approach being bought out by Google. Don't forget my commission if it works :)

Eva - I thought walking might be easier, but after Quinn's comment above...

Quinn - When I turned 30, I didn't think it was that big a deal, but during the year that followed I made major changes to my life. I'm wondering if the same thing might happen again.

Mind you, major changes seem to be the norm these days...

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday Kim. Don't worry about it - just do the normal thing and lock the bike safely in the garage and never speak of it again.

SheBah said...

Good luck with the cycling, Kim. I've just given away my bike, which was used about six times in three years. London is not exactly conducive to biking. I've been doing brisk walking with a group of friends for a couple of years now - London is full of glorious parks - we have lots of laughs on the way, see the changes of nature close up, including deer and all those flocks of green parakeets we now have in London, and it's free. Plus, we now know a lot of dog owners!

Kim Ayres said...

Kav - wise words...

SheBah - I would never have considered London as the place to go walking among deer and green parakeets. I am enlightened.

PI said...

You can get shorts with a padded bottom to ease the dog's nose saddle. Do all Scotsmen have short legs? If my husband's legs were in proportion to his back he's be 7' tall!

Kate said...

I was thinking about your birthday this morning, because as you know mine is not far away either. Nice to know I'm not the only old fart in blogland LOL

Have fun on your bike! Don't forget to take lashings of ginger beer when you go out for a ride.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - I'm afraid you've fallen into yet another misconception - not only am I not a woman, I'm not Scottish either - I just happen to live in Scotland and have a Scottish wife and children.

Kate - I remembered that your 40th is imminent, but I can't remember which day

Carole said...

For the first time yesterday I listened to one of your audio clips and I thought, "What a nice voice his reader has." I knew it wasn't you though because after reading many of your posts, I already knew what you sounded like. Then I found this post, with the picture accompanying the voice. At first I thought it was a ventriloquist. But I have come to grips with the fact that I now have to change the voice in my head when I read your writings.

Kim Ayres said...

I hope the voice wasn't too disappointing, Carole. You could always avoid the audio and video clips and just read the transcripts if the voice in your head is more pleasant :)

So, did I sound American or Scottish in your head?

Carole said...

Well your voice didn't disappoint me, but even though you are a philosopher and stuff, I thought of you as a regular joe. Sort of a younger brother with a lot of smarts. (I have five brothers and my youngest is 37 and I think you are 40). I am 53 so that worked for me. Then I heard your voice. So cultured and refined and well...intimidating. Now I think of an intellectual with good breeding when I hear your voice. Youch!! Accent? In my mind before I heard a British lumberjack. So,well, anyway your voice is great and I'll quit seeing you with a chainsaw at the ready.

Kim Ayres said...

It's amazing what impression an accent gives - cultured and refined - I can think of a wife and several friends who would fall about to hear that description applied to me. My mother would have felt smug at your description of good breeding but I think my father would laugh out loud.

And while I may have a degree in philosophy, I left school at 16 and didn't return to education until I was a mature student in my mid-twenties.

I did in fact use a chainsaw when I was 17 when I was on a government training scheme working for a landscape gardening firm for 6 months, although admittedly I haven't touched one since.

There's nothing about me that sticks me in any kind of superior category, so I'm afraid any sense of intmidation comes from your own inferiority complex (must be some old chalk lines drawn somewhere :) )

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