Car free = Care free
I got rid of my car three years ago. I save on parking fees, garage rental, petrol, insurance, repairs and the odd parking fine. Now days I either travel by tram or by bike. That’s what I save in cash.
But there are gains aswell. Miles of carefree riding with friends, having the money (that I saved) to buy a nice Appel Strudel at Kapten Billes just outside my hometown happy in the knowledge that my weight won’t be a gain issue.
I keep fit, I visit some fantastic countries, and meet some amazing people; Most of them on a bike.
Question: How many grumpy cyclists do you know compared to how many happy ones?
I bet the scales weigh heavily in favour of the happy cyclist.
There’s even a cycling community in Sweden called Happy MTB. Not without reason.
I’ve had a few bikes down the years but being born and raised in London my father deemed it a bit too dangerous to ride a bike.
“But I’ll be careful dad!!” I exclaimed
“Don’t matter how careful you are when others ain’t!” he replied delivered ,short, sweet and hard like a right uppercut from Mike Tyson.
I only needed to hear that answer once and I fully understood. I couldn’t argue with that. When I turned 15 years of age I wanted a moped like all of my mates had, I should have understood the answer that was coming.
But I was wrong. Coming back from a school holiday boating trip on the Norfolk Broads I returned to our flat in Camden Town to find a brand new orange BSA Tour de Britain standing up against the wall in our passageway.
I was speechless at seeing this monster. I can only today understand the joy my parents must have felt seeing my face … totally consumed in this obect of metal, rubber, wires, lights, levers & pedals.
All those things that would eventually pave the way to a future of hundreds of thousands of miles on the road. My own little travel-pack of personal freedom! And it all started with rides to school and back.
Fast forward 15 years ; I’m now a dad. My first daughter is learning to ride her first bike.
The best way is to take the pedals off and let them walk with the bike under them to get the balance. That wasn’t for me though; I had the usual broomstick gaffer taped under the saddle which I held onto as she pedaled between comfort zones and complete terror.
I remember so well the feeling when she said “Dad You won’t let go will you!!” Not knowing that I already had. Her face when she realised she was doing it by herself, tongue sticking out the side of her mouth, her face completely focused and straining with a broad smile of determination
Fast forward to today. Out on a training ride, I leave my house and see youngsters tearing around the estate where I live. They catch sight of me and cry out “Wow, look!!” and I’ll give a wave and a smile. Who knows who I’ll inspire to keep on biking, perhaps a future Peter Sagan, or Sir Bradley Wiggins or perhaps just someone who will over the years experience the same joy from cycling as I have done. I feel a pang of jealousy. These nippers have their whole lives ahead to explore on the bike.
Then I turn out of the estate and hit the roads. Men and women of all ages sit comfortably behind the wheel. They will throw up their arms in disbelief, hit the horn, shout, give a finger, brake last minute in what feels like an attempt to find another use for the padding between my arse and the saddle. Do Libero make cycle-shorts?
People! When did you suddenly become so selfish, so anal, so closed?
When did you forget the joy of your first bike ride, your child’s first bike ride?
How do you go from telling your wife “Sammy rode 10 yards today all on his own”
to “Get off the bloody road you moron, you’re in my way!”
Why did you ever bother teaching little Sammy to ride a bike in the first place?
Perhaps because back then you were young at heart and young in mind. Your kids helped you stay there. But now conformity, contentment, social adaption in the workplace, politics, your inability to get off your own arse and say “No I won’t drive my kids 500 yards to school so I can get to work on time, they will ride their bikes like I did and we can all leave a bit earlier!”
But you choose the car, it’s convenient, and so are you. You despise those who ride their way into work. They’re not all perfect; they don’t all understand the traffic rules 100%. Who does?
But I bet you they are happier than the dull faces sitting solo in their cars, sitting idle in yet another traffic queue with the image of their child taking their first yards on a bike half-hidden like a ship in the mist at the back of their minds.
Perhaps a call from the past? “Mum! Dad! Wake up, Don’t grow up!”
But convenience wins out. Ignorant Journalists ridicule the Mamil’s and add fuel to the fire of irritation asking the rhetorical question “Who do they think they are?” trying to glue a truth into the readers minds with their click-bait.
Yeah!! Who do we think we are? We in our lycra (do we wear lycra?) , with our expensive lightweight bikes and colourful outfits, slim, good looking … fit and healthy, fewer sick days than most, better sex lives than most (come on, you know it) … happy and smiling on the inside.
We Are, what you chose not to be. Young at heart and happy to stay there.
See you on the road.