Last week I went out to dinner with some good mates at a nice place in Croydon Park. Well less dinner and more coffee and knafeh (a Middle Eastern desert that’s just fantastic). It was a good night, but I still found myself drifting off fairly early and was one of the first to call it quits. As I leant across the table and shook hands with an old mate, who I’ve really only been seeing regularly for the past year or so, he asked if I was cycling with him a few of the others on the weekend. I didn’t have to answer since just about everyone else at the table knew it already.
“Nope. Tom doesn’t cycle.”
I don’t. Simple as that. It’s still something that many people seem to find difficult to comprehend, and I found myself running through a familiar conversation last week as the gears ground to a halt inside the questioner’s head. It’s a conversation I’ll probably find myself in more often than not as the southern hemisphere shifts into spring and summer, and the people I know for whom cycling is more lifestyle choice than legitimate transportation alternative begin planning day trips and coastal rides.
My mate looked at me in confusion for a moment, then asked if it was because I didn’t own a bike (followed by an offer to borrow his old one). Nope, I answered, I just don’t cycle. He then threatened to buy me a bike, since then I’d have to use it. I said that if he did I’d cut off the handlebars and leave them in his bed. As a warning.
At that point I finished my goodbyes and did a runner before he got the chance to ask the all important question. Why? For some reason a lot of people assume that it’s because I had some sort of bad experience on the back of a bike and I did have a nasty crash or two when I was younger, dumber and still rode. Truthfully I just didn’t like it, so I stopped and let the old set of wheels rust away. These days it’s just a matter of pride (and if I’m going to be honest probably always has been at least a little). The whole culture surrounding grown-apparently-mature-adults cycling irritates me and I by and large try and avoid it.
That’s not to say I have issue with the handful of people I know who cycle for actual exorcise and transport reasons, since they aren’t the problem. They’re pleasant and recognise that not everyone gives a shit about how much their bike costs. It’s the folks for whom cycling is essentially just a passing fad (appearing with the Tour de France and disappearing when they realise that riding 50km in 35 degree Celsius weather goddamned sucks) that are the problem. The folks who’ll spend forty minutes talking about the carbon fibre wheels or carbon fibre brakes or carbon fibre underwear or carbon fibre whatever-the-useless-fuck that they last spent an obscene amount of their hard-earned money on. Or the folk who dawdle along the narrow streets of Balmain, Newtown and Surry Hills on their fixed-gear bikes in Ray Bans and/or flowing summer dresses blocking traffic then lamenting how bicycle-unfriendly Sydney is compared to Europe (don’t even get those guys started on Australian helmet laws, they never shut up).
But they’re my mates. They put up with me when I begin ranting about movies and anime and video games and the geopolitical ramifications of Australian military intervention in Iraq and Syria, so it’s only right that I just I grin and politely nod when they talk about how they need new road tires or bitch about the lack of bike lanes around the city. Most of them know better than to bring up the subject of new tires, day-trips and the importance of their upcoming court battle appealing a hundred dollar fine received for not wearing a helmet (seriously, don’t get them started on bloody Australian bloody helmet laws). Same as I know not to start talking about how Sons of Anarchy has shifted from a Hamlet to Macbeth cover whenever we’re out clubbing. But not all of them and not all the time. So, as happens with the changing of the seasons I sit back and contemplate whether it might be more efficient to just tattoo my side of the conversation onto some easily visible part of my body.
“Nope. I don’t cycle. Because I don’t.”
No more point to this post than that. Just figured I’d write something up while I think of something more interesting to talk about.