Irrational irritations and other unnecessary issues (4/8/2015)

Today let’s talk about bicycles, trains and why a combination of the two is one of the worst possible things that can be inflicted on the world.

If you’re a long time reader then you might remember my feeling towards hopping on a bicycle ranges between telling people that I never do and threats involving circular saws. Turns out I have just as strong an opinion about other people who do cycle. Specifically, I have just as strong an opinion of people who decide to bring their bikes, their big, clumsy, awkward bikes, onto trains and buses with the rest of us. Because it’s fucking annoying.

You see it all the time on the train. Some hipster with a top-knot who’s parked his fixie across three seats. A bloke whose mountainous mountain bike blocks off half the carriage (and probably the doors as well) forcing the crowd that piles in after into a fraction of the space that should be available to them. Someone on their way to work risking a fine and the anger of their fellow commuters by bringing their carbon fibre monster onto the train against the rules during peak hour. A uni student trying to be helpful by lifting her bike vertically so it’s resting on it’s rear wheel, then being shocked when the rocking caused by a gentle bend sends the front wheel straight towards some poor bastard’s head (but god bless her, at least she’s trying). Another hipster leaving bruises and annoyed glares in their wake as they roughly shove another fixie in amongst the crowded carriage, then roughly drags it back out again at the next stop.

Not everyone who brings their bike on the train is a massive pain in everyone’s arse of course (#notallcyclists). I know a guy who always makes sure when he’s catching the train, after a long day of work and never during peak hour, to park his bike against the carriage doors that only open once on his entire trip home (and that’s his stop anyway). Plenty of people manage to get their bikes onto a train without pissing off everyone else. It just makes the inconsiderate ones look like even bigger jackasses.

So next time you’re thinking about dragging your bike onto the public transportation system, ask yourself two questions. The first is: “am I physically capable of getting this heavy lump of metal on and off the train without injuring, delaying or otherwise inconveniencing my fellow commuters?” The second question would be: “is the train so packed with people that it answers the first question for me?”

It it’s “no” to the former and “yes” to the latter, or even a maybe to either, than you probably shouldn’t be dragging your bike onto the train. Here’s an idea, how about instead you actually ride your bicycle to wherever you want to go instead. Ever thought about that? Fucking crazy thought, I know. But, hey, you guys are the ones always banging on about how cycling is a legitimate mode of transportation. So go and bloody prove it.

Seasonal conversation cycles

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.

Bicycle and circular saw - edited 3:10:14
I’ve been told I shouldn’t take life advice from Al Pacino characters. Can’t for the life of me figure out why.

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.