I suspect you were motivated by vanity rather than any health benefits, when you decided to try cycling. Sure, you know it’s going to do your heart some good. But more importantly, your legs will be toned in no time. And if you spend 20 minutes cycling to work it’ll give you licence to sit on your fabulous butt and eat sweets all day when you get there.

Make hay – or take up outdoor activities, at least – while the sun shines, you decide. And the sun is shining. So on Tuesday after work you go straight to Evans Cycles on your way home.

After consulting the office cycling fraternity you are well briefed for what kind of bike you need, and you’re prepared to spend a bit of money. You spend a bit of time with the fit, but slightly grubby looking Evans Cycles bloke, weighing up the options before going for the first one he showed you.

Then he walks you around the shop pointing all the many accessories and essentials you seem to need. You nod and shrug and smile, as you agree, and remind yourself of what you’ll be saving in tube fares. But it isn’t long before your flirty suggestible-ness wears off. You’re going to spend more on paraphernalia than you did on the bike if you’re not careful.

Since you’re certainly not going to cycle in the rain, you won’t need a nasty fluorescent jacket. Lights are unnecessary right now, while the evenings are long and light still. If you do work till dark, you’d have earned a cab home you figure. You do take on board his suggestion of panniers to pack your stuff into (better than a grim back-sweat inducing rucksack), and can’t deny you need a lock, too. And when you sigh at the cost of a safety helmet, he points out £25 really isn’t much to pay to keep your brain intact. So, almost £500 lighter, you pedal off.

You teeter the wrong way up Rathbone Place and wobble up Charlotte Street. Within minutes you are loving it. The freedom! Passing queues at bus stops! Jumping in front of taxis as you wait for the lights to change! You’re king of the road!

You go off it a bit as you struggle to navigate past pedestrians, who are lost, drunk or just plain daft, wandering over the roads of Camden looking the wrong way. And the incline of Haverstock Hill is no fun. But you can just feel the good it’s doing your bum as you stand on your pedals and push on home.

‘Couriers to the other entrance,’ shouts Alice through the window, as she sees you wheeling your bike up the front path.

‘Very funny,’ you pant. ‘Open the fucking door.’

‘Alright, alright. Well, it’s not a great overall look darling, but I’m still very impressed. How was it?’

You beam, still high on endorphins, and tell her it was one of the most liberating experiences of your life.

Your conviction grows as the route gets easier. Within a fortnight you are completely hooked. You start to try to convert those around you, though Alice remains unpersuaded – and you leave Joan out of it. But there are plenty of other eager ears around.

It is during one of your lectures that Mark, from Finance, interrupts you to say

‘Oh, you’ve taken up cycling have you? I thought I saw you pedalling past me this morning.’

You blush, and admit to it, hoping you weren’t looking too sweaty by then. But you console yourself with the fact that you’re sure it’s having an effect on your legs already. They’re definitely more toned. You buy some shorter shorts, the better to catch those rays as you speed through town.

A couple of weeks later and the toning and tanning effect is unmistakable. You are flaunting your lovely new Rachel Hunter legs when you meet Simon and Nita for a drink, in a mini you haven’t worn in years. Simon greets you with a wolf whistle.

‘Nice legs,’ he says, as he plonks the bottle of red and glasses down. ‘So, ladies, who’s the hottest guy you met today?’

‘My boss – again!’ says Nita in a flash – and in unison with Alice, who mutters ‘Jamie’, to a collective groan from the rest of you.

‘Not him again? I thought that was all off? Please please tell me about some fresh talent in your life.’

‘Umm...’

‘Too slow! Mine was the guy who served me coffee at London Bridge.’

‘Alright! I don’t keep a constantly running check on the hottest guys I meet.’

‘No wonder you’ve been single so long.’

‘Okay okay give me a break. I can tell you exactly who the hottest guy I met today was. It was twenty to nine and I was waiting at the lights on the Euston Road, and this guy wheeled up beside me on a racer. He was wearing slightly dodgy lycra but he was totally ripped, so I thought it was okay.’

‘At the lights? So you’re still cycling. Well good for you sweetie. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s okay to wear all over lycra. I’m not sure, even with your fabulous style, you can make one of those ugly helmets work for you, either.’

‘Simon!’ tuts Nita. ‘She must wear her helmet. If she values her life at least, which I do – we all do. Don’t listen Sass. You do wear one don’t you?’

‘Oh yes, I do. Well, most days.’

Truth is you only wear it if your hair is dirty, or it’s raining (keeps the rain off your face). But since you started listening to your ipod you hardly ever jump the lights anymore. You think of it as cycling karma.

Perhaps you haven’t worn your helmet often enough, or you’ve jumped a light too many, in the days before the accident. For whatever reason your cycling karma was all out of whack.

When the white van appeared around the corner, doing 30mph on the wrong side of the road, you’d had no warning – your ipod was at full blast. And there was nothing between your fragile skull and the tarmac when you fell.

You're in a coma for 7 years before they switch the ventilator off. I know – you’d think they’d have hung on a bit longer, wouldn’t you? But you’d lost the use of most of your vital organs and to describe you as vegetative would have been to pay you quite a compliment. Besides, as your dad said to your mum, ‘it’s a shame she can’t write her own script on this one, love. But we’re the ones that have to live with it, not her.’

At your funeral they played ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, at Charlie and Alice’s unanimous request: it was your favourite song after all. No-one knew it was playing when you crashed, or perhaps they would have stuck with ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’ after all, as backed by your mum and Simon. Charlie attends your funeral alone, but makes his excuses from the wake to return to his wife and two kids. Alice and Simon get drunk together in a corner and talk about how fun you were. Small consolation, I’m sure.

THE END

 

Epilogue

Don’t tell me – you would never have cycled without a helmet? I know, it’s tough. You chose cycling, not cycling dangerously after all. But sometimes what happens in life is about things you are forced to do, not just the choices you make.

You can always hit back (or click here to skip straight to the other Chapter 3 option) if you feel really cheated.