Go big­ger gear or go home, or walk

Katie archibald

Cycling Weekly - - WEEKLY COLUMN -

When I was six years old I got my first bike with gears. It didn’t have a bas­ket for my cud­dly toy dog to ride along with me, as was the fash­ion with my pre­vi­ous bike, but that didn’t mat­ter be­cause I was grow­ing up and big kids didn’t take their toy dogs ev­ery­where with them. I’m old enough now that it can be just an odd quirk, rather than a sign of stunted emo­tional ma­tu­rity. So Dog­ger (a name only an in­no­cent child could give a toy dog) can come with me any­where he wants. I still don’t have a bas­ket though.

The girl that sold this new bike to me, Lauren, a girl in our neigh­bour­hood a few years older than me and so the coolest per­son in the world, gave me a Del Boy-es­que run­down of the ma­chine. “It’s got five gears and you change them here,” Lauren said while twist­ing the grip shifter. “Gear one is the slow­est and gear five is the fastest.” Sim­ple. I made a men­tal note that I would be us­ing gear five. Who wants to go slow?

What fol­lowed was a lot of get­ting off the bike and walk­ing up hills. I had my dunce tem­per­a­ment to blame for the strug­gles of those rides, but be­ing left be­hind by an Archibald or two didn’t boost morale ei­ther. The hills were steep but my learn­ing curve was no­tably shal­low. Thank­fully, my lit­tle hand did even­tu­ally twist down the gears, con­firm­ing that the slow way up was still faster than stop­ping.

Was it per­haps in­evitable that I would fall in love with track cy­cling, sub­con­sciously still search­ing for The One True Gear? Prob­a­bly not. It was more likely the good luck of get­ting a shot on Meadowbank velo­drome. But nonethe­less my child­hood logic seems to rip­ple through track cy­cling, sea­son af­ter sea­son, as the gears get big­ger and big­ger in the hope of go­ing faster and faster. The sport would be more than a decade ahead if only they had lis­tened to six-year-old me back in 2000. I ex­pect I’d never heard the phrase ‘turn it up to 11’, but it was very much my gear­ing motto.

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