Two wheels good, four wheels bad

 by Martin Belam, 16 May 2005

So this weekend the wife and I bought ourselves bicycles. We'd been thinking about it for a while, specifically to get practice for hiring bikes when we are abroad, and getting more exercise, and chiefly (on my part anyway) since Kraftwerk made an album all about the joy of cycling (so it must be good). [1]

We bought them from a small cycling shop called Everything Cycling on Forest Road, which was quite an experience. The somewhat singular owner doesn't take credit or debit cards (I didn't think these kind of places still existed) so we had to scurry off to stump up the cash from the bank. Having paid for them, we then carefully wheeled them out of the shop, and started walking down the pavement with our shiny new bikes.

Now, I think it must be over twenty years since I have been on a bike, and probably ten years since my wife has, and I'm sure we would have quite happily walked them all the way home, so that our first tentative wobbles could be done in the privacy of our garden, or at least the semi-privacy of the wasteland in front of our house.

Then the weather intervened, as a stinging hail-storm descended.

It wasn't so much the getting wet and stung that made me hop on the bike, but the fact that I would have looked ridiculous getting stung and wet whilst wheeling a perfectly functional bike home slowly. So I got on and took the plunge.

Immediately, being on the bike gave me a different perspective on the world. Normally I'd sympathize with people on the street hiding from a storm under trees, but now, you, yes you, old granny, with your shopping trolley shuffling along looking for shelter, you are in my cycle lane, and I'm going to have to take evasive manouevres. And I have the right of way on this marked up section of pavement y'know. I can feel it will be a mere matter of weeks until I turn into a militant cyclist swearing and cursing at cars, buses, and passers-by.

And then just as suddenly I was back in uncertain mode, as I turned left towards my house and found myself running downhill at breakneck speed thinking "I haven't tried to apply the brakes on a bike for over twenty years. If I can't bring this thing to a stop at the road junction at the foot of this hill, and a car is coming, I'm going to die."

This is going to be fun!

[1] This particular argument may not necessarily apply to all of Kraftwerk's albums, notably "Radioactivity" [Return to article]

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