FORMER Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has decided to give up cycling – and he says attempts to run him off the road and sectarian abuse are part of the reason he's decided to hang up his helmet.
Writing in his weekly Andersonstown News column, Mr Adams reveals that his days on two wheels are over and he adds with a hint of black humour that he gave up cycling in Belfast amid fears for his safety "after the Sinn Féin police had a word with me".
The ex-West Belfast MP says he enjoyed his time cycling in Dublin as a TD, but when he brought his bike back to his home city things things took a turn for the worse.
"Irate anti-Shinner wannabe death-drivers tried to run me off the road a few times," says Mr Adams. "Others used to shout abuse as they drove slowly alongside me. 'Dirty Fenian' invective is the ruination of a good spin on a bike. The Sinn Féin traffic police had a word with me so I limited my outings."
In the wake of advice he received to stop cycling in Belfast, Mr Adams limited his outings to spins along quiet greenways on the outskirts of the city – but now he's decided to call it a day completely.
Mr Adams says he'll miss his bike – which he bought in Dundalk 15 years ago – in spite of the familiar problems faced by cyclists everywhere in built-up environments.
"It was great for scooting about Dublin when I was a TD," he recalls. "Richard (McAuley) would be stuck in traffic as I whizzed passed him. It was dangerous cycling in Baile Átha Cliath. Some motorists are oblivious to cyclists. But I survived. And I enjoyed the freedom that a bike represents."
Mr Adams further reveals that he bought his first new bike from a shop on the Shankill and that the machine came in handy when it came to avoiding British soldiers.
"I remember when I got my first wages I bought a new racing bike on hire purchase," he recalls. "From a shop on the Shankill Road. I also remember crashing it into the back of a bus on the Springfield Road just below the West Circular. The kindly conductor took me and my injured cycle on the platform of the bus and dropped us off in the city centre close to the Duke of York, my workplace. A new front wheel from Garvey’s and I was able to cycle back home again that night. Some years later I dodged Brit Army road blocks and slipped around Belfast on two wheels."
• You can read all of Gerry Adams' column in this week's Andersonstown News.