Not so much of a "Bureau" as perhaps a spare sock drawer.
Occasionally the time constraints of running the global media conglomerate that is Spokes(wo)man International Limited means that I cannot be in all places at all times.
And at times like all those times, I delegate to my team of international roving reporters; a motley band of desperado hacks, known for their sky-high expense accounts and low-down dirty morals.
Recently the charming, but definately one-cow town of New Plymouth in Taranaki New Zealand (and as someone who spent some of their teenage years there, I can say that with some authority) hosted a Cycle Chic night, and I sent my mum along to report on the evening.
Fabulous for New Plymouth, I say. This city has hills and winding country roads which are a cyclist's paradise, were it not for the speeding locals in their utes and clapped out Holdens. But I love that there's apparently enough local bike lovers (or their mothers) to fill a theatre. Bravo !
"400 words on my desk by Monday" I snapped at my mum, as I bit the end off my cigar and spat it onto the newsroom floor. And here we are ...
Brett Cotter loves to cycle, everywhere, especially around Lake Taupo and he loves to inspire others who share his love. In response to the vandalism of the Giant Bike, Taupo’s answer to the Big Banana, he began fundraising film nights around New Zealand after curating international short films.
And since 2017 is the 200th anniversary since German inventor Karl Drais built the first bike (June 12th or 18th depending on which GOOGLE page you prefer) Brett decided to add a collection of films for Cycle Chic.
The curation of the film evening took 3 years as Brett sourced entries from all around the globe and, aided by a panel of film and bikey types, selected short films which were entertaining and told a story of cycling as inspiration and empowerment.
Who is Cycle Chic? “She’s an explorer who pushes boundaries, she’s courageous and she’s an advocate for change- all through the power of a bike.”
And now to the night itself. Groups of mainly women but a few blokes as well, braved the cold of a New Plymouth night to fill a lovely boutique theatre. Armed with wine and nibbles we could either sit in a café style seating area downstairs or climb to the gallery (which I did) where the two-seater couches allowed some of us to make new friends. I loved the stage setting for there was a 1950s Raleigh bike, very like the one I had sold bottles to buy so that I could ride to high school. Carrier, skirt guard, chain guard, all there. But this model had brakes on the handlebars where mine had a backbrake. The bike on stage would have been flash in my day.
The films began after an introduction from Brett who described the films, from Africa, Afghanistan, Germany, Australia, England, Japan, America and Sweden. World cinema indeed. And the biggest hum/giggle was given to the announcement that World Naked Bike Ride Day would be marked by a film from Sweden. [Edit, I have been keeping the World Naked Bike Rides from my mother, but apparently the cat is now out of the bag, and flashing it's bits everywhere, so expect much more nudity on these pages forthwith.]
And so to the films.
“She Builds” is the story of a New Yorker woman bike mechanic who builds bike frames in a very clean and organised workshop, assisted by two kittens.
Another bike frame builder, Georgena Terry, has her own cycle design and manufacturing company. This remarkable woman is a polio survivor with a very compromised gait. She never accepted this as a disability so built bikes to help herself and others. Georgena found that ordinary bikes just didn’t cut it, she made her bike with a smaller front wheel which suited her body structure and then began a business to custom build bikes for women. As she says, it’s a lot like buying clothes, women don’t go to the men’s department. Her bikes appreciate the differences in limb lengths, muscle mass placement, and what woman hasn’t appreciated a bike saddle which is woman-fit!
Amanda Ngabirano is a woman urban planner in the capital of Uganda has a big dream to have a cycling lane built in the city of Kampala, easier said than done.
The traffic seemed to be composed of maniacal drivers in minivans, cyclist and motor cyclists, and pedestrians who appeared and disappeared as if by special effects. The stories of children being able to go to school because of their bikes, commuters cutting out the horrendous journeys which had previously stopped them from taking up jobs or from being with their families were inspiring. Let’s hear it for bikes! Again
An English couple were faced with the dilemma of spending their savings on a house deposit in London or buying two bikes and trailers and having a megamoon honeymoon by cycling on the world’s longest off pavement cycle trail from the Mexican border to Canada on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail 4455 kilometres of mud, desert and mountains. Their good humour was amazing, many of the audience felt that they would have happily stayed in the first luxury lodge and hidden out until their expected time was up. Ernest Hemingway said, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” And they did, New Mexico to Banff.
A London bike kitchen which is an open DIY workshop, supplies all the tools, lots of advice and the important space in a city of apartments is run by Jenni Gwiazdowski with help from enthusiasts and a London Cycling Campaigns grant. The emphasis on access to, not ownership of, tools is a huge plus
Mountain biking on Japan’s Hidden Alps where the winter ski scenes become, in summer, trails for the very daring mountain biker only. Words fail me so the link is here. I had my brakes on in the theatre all the time!
Female bike riders from Melbourne and their fixation with fixed gear bikes reminded me of those events at country show days, slowest bike rides where you were disqualified if you fell off or deviated from the set lane. Believe me, it was much harder than it looks. But the film was also about the friendships, skill and lovely helmetless rides.
Empowerment by bike, freeing communities and, especially women, was the theme of the night. The story of women cyclists in Afghanistan is truly inspirational as the path to equality, a long and tortuous ride, has to contend with a society where the sight of women straddling cycle seats can cause rage and retribution. Afghani women have come a long way since 2009 and they deserve our admiration always.
Now to the film the audience seemed to be waiting for. A Swedish film of Naked Bike Ride Day. Naked and Swedish excited the three schoolgirls crammed into the double sofa in front of me. Watch the 2 minute video and see why the audience all shouted “aaww” at the end.
So, to quote Brett and his team, ”all bikes, all terrains, all good”. This was a super night’s entertainment and made me think more deeply about cycling and respect those who do. Maybe I will fill the gap in my own transport stable. At my age, pre baby-boomer, maybe it is time to get the tricycle I never had !