The times they are a changin'
To be honest, everything’s going so well there’s nothing about my personal journey to write about. Rode my bike in, lovely Autumn day, no stress, rode home. Sure, I wish we had some nice safer infrastructure but I’m comfortable now mixing it on the highway with the big kids when I have no other choice. And sure, I'd love to see infrastructure that made more people feel comfortable with it as safe alternative for them too, but I mean, there are some experiences that even #GetStuffedDunc and #CasinoMike can’t ruin.
But one thing has changed ….
Waaaay back when I first started riding with Sprocketman, we didn’t always have the best time together.
He was (and still is) a far more experienced and confident rider, back then I was scared shirtless of the traffic and didn’t know how to use my gears (my recent crash on Alpe d’Rothwell suggests I still don’t know how to use them, bah hahah hah).
I couldn’t keep up with him, I didn’t want to ride on the highway, or ride two abreast, blah blah blah. We struggled.
Fast forward to a recent Thursday, and Sprocketman suggested we ride home from work together; now that he’s back working in the CBD. We were both having the sort of day when it looked like we could get away on time if not actually a bit early.
Frankly dear reader, given our riding history I was sceptical; so I did nothing to follow up with him re arrangements to meet up until lo, 4.30pm and we hear the tippy-tap of someone in cycling shoes wheeling a bike through reception at my office.
Bugger. This was actually happening.
I quickly finished work and ran to change into riding attire while Sprocketman chatted with my co-workers about their bikes (literally half the office had ridden that day and we had bikes everywhere) there was a lot of marvelling at Sprocketman's bike, people lifting it with one finger etc.
The deal is, when we ride together, as the least experienced rider (and the indicator gender!) I choose the route, because I have to feel safe. I gave him my quick précis for getting out of Sydney CBD alive, and off we set.
And it was fine. I forget how fast I can be with my motor assist and left him on several hills on the way to the SHB; I’d slow and look back, and then remember to wait. I like to get out of the city ASAP, the traffic exhaust stinks, there are too many buses, and this is when much of George Street is closed to private traffic while we install light rail to replace the road which replaced the trams. Don’t say we’re not a forward thinking city!
And Sydney’s pedestrians have been spoilt; we’re all treating George Street like a pedestrian mall and wander out when we bloody feel like it. As a cyclist, having the right of way is merely a suggestion, and there’s lots of weaving around and emergency braking. It’s mob rule, and I hope it sticks around when the Car people return and we all rise up against their tyrannous rule…
Back IRL we sped along, with not much in the way of conversation because in brisk single file the lead rider’s words are whipped away by the wind; so it wasn’t until we were walking our bikes down the 80-ish stairs of the SHB (#InfrastructureFail) that Sprocketman had a chance to say, “Your riding is really good. I can’t believe how good you are now.”
I was quite surprised and very touched. What a lovely thing to say.
We rode on, on slightly less busy roads now, I rode out through the intersection first and held my hand up to let motorists now I was being followed by a trail of cyclists, it’s what you do to protect following riders. I heard the SO chuckling, and when we were able to ride alongside he said “I saw you stop traffic for me! That was fucking awesome!”
We went on to have a lovely ride through the Lane Cove River Park and various other national parks and bushland reserves which are on my regular route home. We rode side-by-side where it was safe, we chatted as we went, and in short it was a lovely lovely ride together.
And I have to thank my riding group Easy Riders, because in just 5 rides together they gave me so much confidence; they taught me about group riding, and indicating direction and obstacles to fellow riders; I notice the lack of that when riding along with other unaffiliated cyclists, sometimes I think they’re kind of arseholes, but I hadn’t thought about the other side of this, and how much a non-group rider might actually appreciate these courtesies.
Find yourself a commuter group or an experienced group rider to start with, and you'll be a far better bike rider for the experience.