Spokes(Wo)Man

Scared of traffic ? No bike infrastructure ? Too Far ? Helmet hair ?

 

Fuck it, ride anyway

Way Back When

When I was a kid growing up in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, I'd say 99% of kids had a bike. My family travelled and moved around a lot, and kept household possessions light, so as a result of that plus an overprotective Dad,  I got my bike a year or two later than everyone else in my age group.

We lived further away from school than a lot of kids, and in the opposite direction to most of them so I loved the independence of having my own wheels, although as a kid you're not introspective enough to realise that's what's going on !

That bike lasted until we moved countries, and in rural NZ I had a new and bigger bike befitting my status as a high school kid, and partially as consolation for being DRAGGED AWAY FROM EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING I KNEW. That bike was more of a method of transport than a loved possession as the first had been, I can't even remember what colour or style frame it was and i think it was pretty well trashed and then ditched in another household move towards the end of high school - by then i lived in town and so close to school my cousins and i didn't need bikes to get anywhere.

And then I didn't have a bike for another 15 years.

By then I was back in Oz, I lived in charming, inner-west Balmain in the 90s and early 2000s -  it was an hour walk into work, and the buses were bloody awful, because the traffic was bloody awful. It was the perfect location for a bike commute into work, and i wish i had then the bike that i have today - this blog would have been writing itself for the past 10 years.

Through Balmain's winding Victorian terrace streets I walked everywhere I went, because everything was so close and so picturesque. So I was walking past the local second hand shop - the last of it's kind on the peninsular that hadn't been replaced by expensive boutiques and trendy cafes - and there was a mountain bike, and I bought it for $50. Rusty piece of crap that it already was, and heavy - I instantly wanted it and rode around Balmain as it was, with no idea about bike fittings to make the ride more comfortable, or maintenance - like checking my gears or brakes for example.

Probably because it weighed 2 tonnes, was in hindsight the wrong size for me, and the brakes were a bit haphazard, I rarely felt the joy of cycling that I do today - it was all hard work, and I was nowhere near fit enough to propel this behemoth uphill - but I decided to start riding to work.

I didn't wear lycra, there were no swanky end of trip facilities - not even any bike storage - I have no memory of where I locked the beast that day - but I do remember that was the day the optional brakes decided to show their utter contempt for gravity or my continued existence, and let me hurtle down a highway off-ramp with no stopping power. My main memory of that ride was the prodigious amount of swearing I indulged in and the ride wasn't repeated - it was just too shitty an experience to start the day.

I didn't understand anything about bikes and thought this heavy bastard was just what a bike was like, and I was more disappointed by the whole experience than anything. Given that I had to lug the bugger up a narrow flight of stairs from my yard to the street, it rarely went anywhere major after that, and languished further into a state of rust until went in a household clean-up, left out on the street with broken lamps and household detritus for the council to cart off to the tip.

So you can see, at no point was I ever bike obsessed or a cycling fanatic. I think they're great fun to get around on - and to paraphrase someone whose name I can't think of right now - they're the simple answer to a lot of complicated problems.