I haven’t written a post for so long it feels as though I’ve forgotten how to write. 2011, in retrospect, feels like hard work. 2012 holds more of the same. My respite, ironically being well over 40, has become my bike.
I decided in a moment of madness last year that I really needed a bicycle – considerably more than a fish does. A colleague, younger, fitter and better looking than I am, suggested that I speak to a friend of his who owns a trendy bicycle shop in a trendy mall nearby. I promised that I would get hold of his friend and then promptly did nothing about it. In fact the whole bicycle idea was starting to fade when I received a mail from him telling me that the friend would give me a good price on a 2010 model.
The most notable thing about this email for me was that I had no idea that the year of a bicycle’s manufacture was even remotely relevant. Not so it seems. It affects resale value and desirability. Some people apparently wouldn’t be seen dead on last year’s equipment. So, prompted by curiosity as much as the prospect of getting a bargain, I phoned the shop and the die was cast. I was drawn into a detailed conversation about hard tails and soft tails, hydraulic brakes and full suspension. Things about which I know nothing at all but pretended to understand to avoid looking like an idiot. If I hadn’t gone to the shop then I may perhaps have avoided this bug, but I did go and therefore didn’t.
The assistant, a fit looking woman somewhat older then me, asked me to wait a bit while she attended to another customer. This allowed me to wander around the shop and marvel at the beautiful machinery which is nowadays sold under the guise of a bicycle. Carbon fibre, aluminum – everything lightweight and sleek. Gorgeous! New car showrooms have nothing on this place. And the paraphernalia which goes with bicycles! Helmets (lightweight), gloves (breathable), pants (padded – very important), cleats, bags, bottles, tools, sludge, tubeless tires, a marvelous pump called an air-tool, computers …… When I finally had her attention there was no way I was leaving the shop without something, and probably something expensive. She looked at my thinning crown and growing paunch and pronounced that a hard tail was not for me (a statement about which I agree completely, I prefer my tails to be softer) and that as I was not a spring chicken any more (a statement which I found profoundly shocking and which tempted me to respond ‘neither are you, you old piece of mutton’).
I was informed that I would prefer something a bit more comfortable and that the only thing for a man of my stature (read paunch), and presumably perceived wallet size as I was wearing a suit at the time, was a full suspension bike. The price quoted made my eyes water and when I gasped that this seemed a bit expensive, I received the response that this was an entry level machine and heavily discounted already. It was, after all, a 2010 model. What I asked what the difference between it and the 2011 version? The color apparently.
I eventually left with a lighter wallet, an air-tool, a helmet and the most marvelous bicycle I have ever owned. Read into the fact that as this is an entry level bicycle, my history of bicycle ownership hasn’t been especially glamorous. It has tubeless tyres and hydraulic brakes and front and rear suspension and more gears than I’ve been able to count. It is a marvelous thing, slow (very slow on the road in fact), but it goes places I would never have ventured with a bicycle in my past life.
The first place that I took it to was the Braamfontein Spruit. Not a difficult ride, but one which took my breath away, both from exhaustion after a piddling few kilometers, as well as the excruciating pain in my backside. Comfortable, my arse! I have since that first ride progressed a bit. Last weekend I was at Northern Farm on a lovely single track route down near the Crocodile River below Lanseria Airport. The wild flowers were out, the sky was clear and veld was heavy with dew. There was nothing I would rather have been doing at the time.
I feel like a little boy with his new bicycle. The thing gets washed more than my car does. Admittedly it doesn’t work very well when coated with mud, but it also looks better clean. I have a whole range of accessories, including a remarkable carrier for my car whose technology impressed my dad even more than the bike’s did. Every now and then I scare the shit out of myself on the thing and I realized the other day after going over the handlebars with my feet still tied to the pedals, that falling over hurts a lot more (a hell of a lot more) than it did when I was 17. I do however wish that I had owned such a bike when I was 17 (they didn’t even exist then), but perhaps if I had I wouldn’t be here to write about it.