How to suck at ... biking
A jargon-free rundown on how to suck at cycling, as written by someone who does, truly, suck at cycling.
Among the great first-world problems I grappled with upon arriving in Blenheim was whether or not to buy a bike. A bike would get me to work in around 15 minutes – almost triple the time it would take for me to walk the same distance – and cost next to nothing when compared to the cost of a car. It seemed like the right thing to do. And I’d like to think it was. But, boy, do I suck at it.
Step one: Get an e-bike, because you’re ‘‘lazy’’.
I’m not saying that people who ride e-bikes are lazy. But I’m the exception. It’s not that I hate exercise, it’s just that exercise hates me. It’s harsh, it’s tough and it’s ugly. I bought an e-bike to counter that. And why not? For those not in the know, e-bikes are bicycles with a battery-powered assist that give you a boost so you can cruise around without gassing yourself. One peddle on the e-bike’s Sports Mode gets you almost five times the distance of a normal peddle. You feel like the fastest cyclist in the world. It’s fantastic. Until your battery dies, as mine did after two weeks of no charging. Then, it’s a sweat festival.
Step two: Don’t wear high visibility gear.
If I received a nickle for every time I almost got hit by a car, I’d have a whole lot of loose change. Those familiar with me would know that, before Blenheim, I was always on the other side of the cyclist-driver conflict. I drove everywhere. But I drove in Australia, where most people live far away from everyone and everything. This is Blenheim. And all this leads up to the fact that I never had a grasp for how nuts roads were as a cyclist until I tried to peddle home. Without high visibility gear, it’s almost as if I’m invisible. There was a time on the Boyce St pedestrian crossing when two drivers drove through the intersection ... while I was on it. Another time, on Battys Rd, a vehicle tried to pull into the Blenheim Indoor Sports carpark and was kind enough to attempt to take me with it. That’s the kind of level we’re talking about here. But despite the several near-misses, I still can’t bring myself to buy a hi-vis vest. Fashion and all that. Step three: Fail to indicate. When it comes to cornering, the surest path to peace is to use one arm to indicate while rolling to a stop. But not for me. When I try to indicate, my centre of balance flies out the window. I feel like there was some sort of howto bike lesson I missed out on in the totter days of cycling. Because, frankly, not a day goes by when I don’t almost topple of my bike attempting to indicate with my arm. It’s exciting stuff. Or mortifyingly embarrassing. I’ve yet to decide.
Step four: Get a bike basket, but only on one side.
When I went to buy my e-bike, I was given a choice. One basket or two. But I saw through the logic of that one. Two baskets would be a complete overkill considering the amount of shopping I wished to lug around each week and, not to mention, rob me of a small fortune. So, I bought just the one, thinking along the lines of, ‘that will settle that’. When it was installed on the right side of the bike, I was assured that it wouldn’t affect my balance. And it didn’t... until I decided to shove a week’s worth of shopping into it. It was nonsense of the highest order. Somehow, a couple of veges (and, if I’m honest, a big bar of chocolate) had crippled my bike. It took a Herculean kick to get the bike in motion, and when I did, the thing leaned precariously to one side.
All eyes were on me as I hobbled out of the parking lot. Once I got up to speed the weight distributed a lot more but, by this stage, the damage to my selfesteem had been done. I will never show my face in public again.
Reporter Chloe Ranford continues her ’how-to-suck-at’ series with a summary of her time cycling around Blenheim.