Friday, August 14, 2009

Keeping Fit (1) - Cycling

I can't believe how stupid cycle helmets are. A motorcycle helmet gives protection to the sides as well as the top of the head so why isn't a bicycle helmet made to give the same protection. Instead, a bicycle helmet sits on the head like a pudding bowl and means one has to have the magnetism and good looks of Brad Pitt to pull off a good photograph - I rest my case. (yes I am aware of the ambiguity).I love my bike. This model has 24 gears, a comfy seat and a good upright riding position. This means I can readily see where I am going in terms of other traffic and moreover I get to see all the sights because I am not leaning forward. Also there is no strain on my back.
I have since added lights fore and aft, mudguards, a carrier and saddle bags. Very soon I am off on a maiden overnight voyage - tent city here I come.

I was bought up in Christchurch New Zealand where it is very flat, not unlike the whole of The Netherlands and half of Belgium which are also great places for bikes and very bike friendly in terms of roads, tracks and trails.
Because my parents didn't have a car for the whole of my time growing up in Christchurch, a bicycle was the only means of transport available to us. My dad rode a bike to and from his work for 25 years through rain, hail and snow. His bike was considered a racy model with its 3 gears and the gravitas of a rear saddle bag. Many a time I would ride from our house, up the road to meet him on his way home from work.

All the Smith kids had bikes. We used them to ride to school, to go to shops for our mum (Two pounds of one and sixpenny mince please Mr M.M.M. Butcher with the sawdust on your floor and yes please I have been smiling as cute as I can in the hope that you will offer me a free savaloy just like you did the last time I was here).
We would ride them to the beach, to the yacht club, to our grandparents houses and to our friends houses to play after school - bicycles were very important.

On the weekends, if I wasn't racing my P class I would be riding somewhere. The best place to ride were the Port Hills where a long push to the top would enable a long, long, wonderful freewheeling ride to the bottom again. It was all done without parental supervision, without crash helmets, sometimes with marginal or inadequate brakes and was extremely dangerous.
But god did I feel alive doing all that - the wind in your hair, the speed so fast it made your eyes stream and every corner a 3oo metre plummet to certain death - and for me always a descent down the harbour side of that huge volcanic cone to Lyttleton harbour where I got to eat my lunch and ogle the yachts moored in the inner harbour and dream my sailing dreams.

They say that in many ways life is circular and we return to some of those things of our youth that were meaningful and forge them again in a new way for ourselves. I know I have certainly done this with cycling. I just love, love biking around. Its hard work but when I include it with the other fitness activities I do such as kayaking, sailing and swimming it provides a great contrast and brings back many memories.

Maybe if I get really fit, I might push off overseas and do a nice long bike ride somewhere where its mainly nice and flat, but has a few big hills so that I can put my crash helmet in my saddle bag and fly downhill again with the wind in my hair, my eyes streaming and my heart singing.

2 comments:

Dan Gurney said...

Hey, Alden—

I live in one of the finest cycling venues in the world: Sonoma County, California. I'm telling you it's fantastic here. Vineyards, forests, coastlines, little villages.

I've been bitten with cycling-fever too. I've got a nice handmade sport touring bicycle, and over the years, have ridden more than 50,000 miles, enough to go round the world twice.

So bring that bike here. You'll like it.

Alden Smith said...

Wow, 50,000 miles! its amazing how the miles add up over the years!
So I understand from what you are saying is that California has a maze of dedicated bicycle tracks that keep you separate from all the traffic? Are these separate bikes trails or do they run alongside existing roads?

Its interesting Dan that we have a number of interests in common.