Sunday, June 3, 2012

To Give Memories Identity.

I didn't learn how to ride a bike until I was seven.  I'd spent time overseas as a kid, where no bike was available, and so on my return to Australia I discovered I was probably the only seven year old boy who couldn't ride a bike in the whole neighbourhood.

This led to a few awkward months where I would avoid the other kids because they would be busy riding bikes down stupidly steep hills, and boasting about how many gears they had (remember this was still when more gears were cool.  My mate Marcelo got a bike with 12 gears and me and my mates collectively lost our shit).  

Eventually, sick of my whinging, my mum took me outside with the bike.  It was a sixteen inch Huffy (I know, my folks clearly didn't love me much).  Mum then said she wasn't going to let me back inside until I had learnt how to ride.  This sounds unduly harsh but, really, it was exactly what I needed.  We made our way to a gentle downward incline, she pushed me gently, and did the ol' pretend to be holding the back of the saddle but in fact she was not and I was riding a bike trick.  I was totally duped and ended up learning how to ride the stupid thing in about an hour.

I can't really accurately describe how fucking stoked I was to realise this machine was being propelled forward by my puny little legs and that, even though mum was yelling to turn around, I was far enough away, and fast enough with my new machine, to ignore her if I wanted to.  Of course, being the total coward that I was, I turned the fuck around.  

I knew I wasn't ready to hang out with the other kids yet, so I partook in the most serious 'secret training' I would involve myself with up until I decided to do the Baw Baw Classic this year.  I got up real early every morning, rode to the end of my street (which was about a kay) then rode back.  My first real incident was when I tried to counter steer around a cicada on the footpath.  The cicada lived, and I ate shit.  It wouldn't be the last time.

Then there was the first introduction to pure terror when, riding down a big hill, I realised that I had totally lost control of the bike, and that I couldn't stop.  I can't actually remember if I crashed or not, but I do remember the two or three seconds of pure unadulterated fear that gripped me as I watched the tree come closer.

The above memories are how I remember the first few weeks of my life as a bike rider.  It might not be the exact way it panned out.  It certainly wasn't as linear as it's described, and I have no idea whether it was Marcelo or Anthony who had the bike with twelve gears.  The real point here is that all the above memories were playing through my head as I got back on the bike on Saturday to do 'training'.  It's been about a month since I last rode and, to be honest, I haven't missed it.  But as I trudged up Plenty Rd, taking a left down Donnybrook, I played these little anecdotes out in my head, trying to keep my mind from my stupidly elevated heart rate, and my ragged breathing.  I listened to a lot of Wolves In The Throne Room, tried to forget about sucking at racing, and just rode my bike in the (albeit cold) sun.  

At first, I hated it.  My back kind ached, my knicks chafed, and I seriously thought about just going to La Panella, eating a pie, and fucking off home to listen to records, closely followed by a listing of all my bikes on eBay.  But as the cars thinned out, and the air became a little cleaner, my cadence picked up, and my breathing steadied.  I thought about mum holding the back of my saddle as I quietly shat myself, pedalling as hard as I could.  I marvelled at the fact that I could get on this two wheeled machine and propel myself forward to where ever the fuck I wanted.  I thought about Marcelo (or was it Anthony?) having twelve gears, who this one time hit 35kmh (don't ask me how we knew the speed).      I marvelled at the fact that I could put this race bike in the big dog and fang it at 50kmh without too much trouble.

I thought about that Huffy, and then I looked at my carbon Scott and realised that they're the same machine.  A little different at first sight, perhaps, but essentially the same.  Both were letting me ride anywhere, go faster than a running mother, and both allowed me to see the world in a particular light.

I then realised that I loved them both, for the exact same reasons.

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