The best part about picking up a new hobby is telling everyone you've done so, becoming incredibly invested in it (both financially and emotionally), and then giving up three weeks later to the immense relief of your partner and mates, who have already grown tired of you dropping freshly learnt terminology from said hobby into conversation. Then the second-best part is listing all of the gear you bought online for half the price you paid last month.
Actually no, I reckon the best part about learning a new hobby is the way in which it changes how you view the world around you. It sounds a bit cheesy, it might have even been the plot of the kids movie you got dragged to last week, but it's true.
Every time I've picked up another hobby, it has shown me a little nook and cranny of the world which I previously had no knowledge of. Taught me about beliefs, or strategies, or things I never even knew existed.
A great example comes from my girlfriend. She's a horsey person. That's not the politically correct name for a centaur, but rather her family owns quite a few horses. I'm not a horsey person. All I really knew about horses before we met was that they like carrots (and it turns out they vastly prefer apples anyway).
But now after spending time with her and her family, while I might not have a greater understanding of horses, or perhaps even a greater knowledge, I at least have an understanding of my complete lack of understanding and knowledge- "the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know", said Einstein.
Did you know they make special razors for shaving horses whiskers? Did you even know horses have whiskers? Did you know that make special stencils which you can hold against a horse, brush its hair in the opposite direction, and make pretty patterns on it? Did you know that horses need sunblock on their noses?
Either your answer will be a deadpan 'Yes', with a hint of bewilderment that I didn't know all this, or it will be complete bewilderment at it all.
Hence my point- isn't it great to know all this useless information? Don't you feel like a worldlier person now, a scholar? I sure do. What makes it even more exciting is that there's little titbits of knowledge like this to be gained in every hobby that exists, from woodworking, to cat breeding, to model planes.
So this week, when I got a bike of my own for the first time in my adult life, I was pretty excited to learn the little secrets of the cycling world- the inside jokes, what's revered and what's reprehensible, everything about life in this facet of the world I had never explored before.
Lyrca is no hidden secret, nor is anything inside it. Having a sore bum isn't either. But there were certainly a few things which did shock me about life on two wheels.
Glass. All over the place. How does it get there? Who puts it there? Since I've gotten around to riding a bike, but not yet learning to change a tyre, I'm especially conscious of it, and it's absolutely everywhere. I would never have had such an awareness of it until now.
This comes with a lingering feeling of guilt- is it possible that I, on some reckless night of my teenage years, could have broken a bottle on a road? I honestly couldn't rule it out. Could that glass have then punctured the tyre of some unsuspecting MAMIL? I pray not.
Then there are the people. People who use their ears instead of their eyes to detect cars before they step off the footpath. Their days alongside us are numbered as silent electric cars become more popular and natural selection takes over, but until then, I'll forever be in perpetual fear of the next person looking at their phone or friend or shoes who I'll have to swerve around as they launch an attack from the edge of the road.
The cars who you share the road with fall into two categories: the people who give you such a generous berth that you feel truly humbled in appreciation, and the people who don't. The latter have also been noted to occasionally rev up their engine next to you, as if they're feigning innocence in asking you "who do you think is faster?". I haven't figured out why yet.
Speaking of which, after the last week, I seriously believe that part of our driver licensing process should require applicants to cycle through town for an hour as a prerequisite to getting their license. It should be a compulsory step in the process to being able to drive a car on the road.
Not because I necessarily think most drivers act badly towards cyclists, but because I know that I've personally become an infinitely better driver in the last week, just by being on the road on my bike. Experiencing the difference that driver behaviour can make you feel, when you're riding a paperclip on the road next to two tonne beasts, will stick with me for life.
That guy on a bike isn't 'hogging the road' in my mind now, he's just making sure I see him. He's cycling on the road because the bike lane ends up ahead, and he doesn't want to have to swerve out at the last minute. And I'm better now at checking my mirrors before opening my doors than ever before.
Travel broadens the mind. Hobbies broaden the sum of useless general knowledge you have, and might make you a better driver. And reading columns leaves you with great horse facts.