Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On Two (or three) Wheels

A little housekeeping, first.

The astute among you* will have noticed a new banner at the top. I made it on my iPad, using a funky little text design app called 'Type Drawing'. I'm not convinced that I've got it completely right yet, but I kinda like the idea. Let me know what you think...

Now, down to business.

Bikes have been a big part of my life for a long time now. When I was a kid, growing up on the Cocos Islands, our bikes were our ticket to freedom; the island we lived on, called West Island was a long skinny, flat coral raft, about 7 kilometres long and about 500 metres across at its widest point. It was also about 2 metres above sea level. As kids, we must have explored every accessible inch of that island on our bikes. We rode them out onto reefs, along beaches, into mangroves (every bike on the island was painted in this sort of thick black tarry paint, to prevent them rusting out within three weeks, and so we pretty much rode them anywhere. I remember being awfully upset seeing my shiny blue bike disappear into the island workshop, and re-appear a couple of days later looking exactly the same as everyone elses...) and even up and down the island's runway.**

As an adult, in my 20's, I got into triathlon in a big way, and spent countless hours cruising around Perth and Fremantle with my cycling mates. Most saturday mornings we'd hit out from the uni at around 6.30ish, and put in a 50-80k ride, usually around the river and up the beaches, and stopping for breakfast down in Fremantle, or perhaps up in the hills, if we were feeling energetic. A few times a year we'd do a big ride down to Mandurah or Rockingham and back, notching up a hundred+ kilometres in the morning, and then going home to sleep all afternoon. I've got some really good memories of trundling around Perth with the boys, chatting and taking in the scenery.

Since moving to Canberra, my cycling has dropped off a fair bit. A year or so ago I traded in my racer for a more practical commuter bike, with big fat tyres and suspension, for the ride in to work, but I don't do it nearly as often as I should. Partly this is because the state of the roads and cycle paths is pretty disgraceful here, but mainly because of the high prevalence of utter bogans with whom you have to share the road.***

But still, I love being out on a bike and, for as long as I can remember, cycling has been one of the big pleasures of life for me.

I particularly remember my first bike. Don't know how old I was when I got it, but it was a red tricycle, with white wheels. I can clearly recall riding endlessly up and down the path around our house, and probably had my mother living in constant fear that I'd set off down our (incredibly steep and unforgiving) driveway**** My trike had a little platform on the back, which you could stand on and use to scoot the bike along and this - most importantly - was shaped like an aeroplane wing, with little 'go fast' ridges and a slightly scalloped trailing edge.

I can't remember what happened to my little red tricycle. I guess it got thrown out eventually.

But anyway, a week or so back, we decided that it was time we got a bike for Toby. He's been scooting around on one at daycare, and loving it.

So we went to Toys R Us, and spent a good chunk of time considering the relative merits of the multitude of models on display: did we want one with parental steering? mini-bucket seats? horns and rear-vision mirrors? seat belts? a sun shade? Drink bottle holders?***** Should we get him the one in neon green plastic, or bright blue plastic? (Or would getting him a blue one be buying into gender stereotyping?) We were determined to avoid the various merchandised ones, which ruled out the Elmo, Thomas and Bob the Builder Bikes******

Then, just when it seemed all hope was lost, we spotted it. Right up on the top shelf, on sale.

A little, shiny, red metal tricycle, with white wheels.

It looked eerily familiar. And it was perfect.

And Toby loves it...



*ie: all my readers.

** there was this great system: if a plane was landing, a siren would go off, and you had about three minutes to get off the runway and to a safe distance. I suspect this has probably changed in the intervening years.

*** On my last ride in to work, about 6 months ago, I was almost killed by a P-Plated commodore full of idiots who deliberately swerved into the bike lane at 80kph, passing within about 2cm of my handlbars, while one of them leaned out the window to whack me on my helmet. Sadly this isn't the first time something like this has happened to me here in Canberra, and I've been a bit loathe to get back on the bike since.

**** I never did. Though I did spend a disproportionate amount of my childhood trying to persuade my brother to give it a go...

***** I am not making any of that up.
****** That either....

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