Wednesday, September 14, 2011

How many roads must a Roadie ride down before you can call him a Man?

NONE! He already has more balls than you! (And if you don't believe it, you can easily count them.)

At a highly manageable 15ish kilometres round trip and one of the most sheltered bike paths, the East Perth route makes a great 'For the Hell of it' ride. Leading to the fashionable inner city, there is a café strip, drink fountains and public toilets at the halfway mark and because it runs next to the train line, any mechanical trouble or injury and you simply put yourself and your bicycle on the next train home.

Arrival at East Perth.
Beyond the bridge lies coffee, restaurants and all the banter about property investment you can stand.

The first time I took the East Perth path without Spouse was the first time I had leisure to notice the effect my bicycle had upon other cyclists. It was a long, hot summer and evening rides to East Perth were a relaxing way to exercise without overheating. Waiting for the sun to ease off, I regularly ended up riding with commuters as I reacquainted myself with cycling. It confirmed what I had long suspected: Bicycle infrastructure was dominated by speed-racers to the detriment of making cycling more palatable to 'the rest of us'. There was a distinct Roadie Rush Hour along the cycleway which brought me into direct contact with the type of cyclist most likely to put me off cycling. (If I were made of less contrary stuff, that is.) Remembering the subtle yet penetrating atmosphere of intimidation the first few times we rode this particular path, I can only imagine what more timid cyclists feel when subjected to the sneers and jeers of the average Roadie. Especially if they've been testing out their bike in the more welcoming surrounds of the 'real' world.

The East Perth route runs with the train tracks, swooping above, below and mostly out of sight of the roads.
Coasting past these billboards when cars are at a red light suffuses me
with enough Smug™ to power 6 small wind turbines or half a Volvo driver.

At this stage in our collective socio-cycle evolution, there are only two responses to a woman on an upright bicycle. Delight or Disdain. My journey to the start of the bike path takes me past a busy train station and is routinely filled with smiles from disembarking passengers. More than once I've seen young women exclaim and point at the Schwinn (Especially since the addition of the basket), declaring their desire for such a bicycle. Once, a woman actually jumped up and down as she tugged on her boyfriend's arm and cried, "Like that! That's the kind of bike I want!" The market is definitely there, the retailers just have to catch up. So does the majority of the cycling community. Which brings me to disdain. Outside of the bike path, the world is sunshine and smiles and rainbows pouring out of my wicker basket. Inside the labyrinth of a major commuter trail, the Minotaur waits with his epilepsy light cranked to 'Grand Mal Seizure' and his padded bottom steaming in the evening air. That first time I rode alone, it was at the heart of Roadie Rush Hour. I was the recipient of a fair few glares as I pedalled my steel framed slowcycle through the not so cool air. Of the many Roadies who overtook me (Which is fine, please do if you are faster!) not one of them signalled his presence by way of spoken word, bell or pointed coughing. The first indication of their presence was usually also the last - A sonic boom as they flew by accompanied by an over the shoulder sneer, particularly if they were riding in pairs. I consider myself a mostly polite cyclist - I keep left of my lane when I know somebody faster is approaching from behind, I slow right down and ready my brakes when encountering unleashed dogs or small children, I ring my bell even when I can see that the jogger in front of me has headphones on and I always thank anybody I overtake whether they're on foot or bicycle. The lack of civility from most commuters was and is disappointing. Without a change in this attitude, cycle paths will never live up to their full community potential.

If cycling is just not enough fitness there are also exercise machines along the East Perth path and
a newly installed drink fountain offering filtered water. No pleb water here.

Fortunately, it wasn't all sneers and vague sexual harassment (Yes, the one positive experience I had with Roadie Pairs that first ride was some general 'Woo!'-ing as they sped past). Riding a bicycle is inherently joyful even if you're not entirely welcome and my enjoyment was so great that it eventually began to win over the other denizens of the cycle path. I travelled frequently along the East Perth route that summer, regaining skills and smiling like a lunatic. Sometimes I would see female commuters and as they dashed past they would actually smile at my bicycle and then at me. After a while, I was even blessed with smiles from a couple of the more hardcore male roadies and I didn't even have to show them both tits. Best of all, by the end of the summer I started to see more upright bicycles on the path, some of my friends bought bicycles and we took weekend jaunts to the cafés of East Perth where an upright bicycle oasis was germinating. One place in particular called 'Toast' always had bicycles outside. There was no official bike parking but as the café tables were right next to the bicycles, nobody bothered to lock their bikes.

Last time I was there I spotted the low-brow humour Mens version of my Schwinn 'Jenny' Bicycle.
The Schwinn 'Willy'.
The inverted commas just make it worse.

Almost a year later and I'm pleased to report that a few types of bicycles piloted by people in everyday clothing can now be seen around East Perth and further along the bike path where it feeds into the city-proper. I went last week to take these photographs and saw two separate families with child seats attached to upright bicycles, a man on a dutch style bike and a Grade 1 fixie infection complete with hoodies, 'kicks' and fluro rims which cost more than both of my bicycles combined. It's still East Perth after all. But really - Any bicycle is good bicycle.

Spring afternoon down by the river.
Do not underestimate the anger of a nesting swan.

If trends continue, in time I hope we'll learn to politely share bicycle infrastructure whether Roadie, Fixie or Recumbent. And this is where I'd put a link to 'Imagine' if I wasn't a a broken cynic choking on my on bitterness - but I am, so instead, put your hand on your triple crank and please be upstanding (But not Upright!) for The National Roadie Anthem.

1 comment:

  1. Omg your commentary is hilarious! Yes there is a market for girl commuter bikes that are cute, functional and come in decent colours (none of that stupid greyishgreen, I wanna be seen in traffic dammit).

    Why is it roadies seem the same basically everywhere. More girls in normal clothes need to be on bikes. And I don't mean racer type nor hipsterettes (of which there is an abundance here too) just normal people. Commuters.

    Course I wish we had more then pleb water though.

    That vid at the end.. still chuffing