Speed; Adrenalin; Self-righteousness; Exhibitionism. By Sam Blenkharn
City riding is grabbing your bike from the hall running down the steps and out. Jump off the pavement hit the road stamp the pedals and you’re already flying. Hard tyres on a hard road and hard thighs as you push it push it never stopping never slacking always riding four minutes and you’re there, at the door at the rail bike locked bike left and now you’re walking, breathing, sweating, you’re there. Done.
Try this one: Been living out of the city for months and you get the train back in, back to the walls the kerbs the cars the people. So many people. Out onto the road you’ve been sitting on a train for an hour and half not any more you’re in the saddle now you’re in the army now you’re in the city now. Half a mile in and you’re in a 16-inch gap between a white van and a car, don’t slow down a bit—give no quarter get none back. Who’s scared of buses? Who’s scared of anything? I own these streets, this gritty city is all mine when I’m riding. Hit the gaps you shouldn’t be able to hit, gaps between kerbs and wing mirrors narrower than your bike but not when you lean it over they’re not. Know how to lean your bike and stay straight up, know that the faster you go the straighter you’ll go. They don’t know it in their cars ‘til you’ve done it and maybe, just maybe you don’t know it either. So there’s a little bit of fear as you hold your breath tense your body and pass the wing mirror, and then you’re powering it away and they’re not, they’re sat, going nowhere. Railing the corner you lay the bike over on its side, arms strained to the bars, feet gripped to the pedals, carving out an arc and away, high and smiling into the startled face of the driver pottering along beside. There’s a green light ahead it’s green it’s green it’s amber you’re out the saddle you’re pumping you’re stamping you’re through. You’re through and sailing over the empty crossroads in the open moment when those cars stop and those cars wait and you just sweep on by, feeling the hit and the high, the adrenalin soars and ebbs, soars and ebbs, until the next amber light or the next corner, the next time.
Absolutely bursting with rage. The road is solid packed with fat black cars, one person in each, going nowhere. Doubled up where there’s only one lane, honking, fuming, stagnating and stupid. You’re trying to do the right thing - No exhaust on my bike. My bike’s as wide as its handlebars; it’s 25 inches not five feet. Why are these cars even in the city? I can get where they want to go in two minutes, not twenty. Irrational hatred fills you, like a waiter has for customers, like soldiers in red for soldiers in blue. Why don’t these wankers just get out of their cars?! Frustration turns you into an ugly monster. Taxi drivers are your enemy, money-grabbing bastards. Pedestrians are hapless; they should look before they walk. Bus drivers cut you up and so does any other bugger who can get away with it. You give the finger, you shout and you swear and you hate. Until you stop, and breathe, and become normal again. But flipping the middle finger is easier than thinking. No love in the city sometimes…got to keep down that monster, keep down that hate.
Watch this watch this! Pull a little stoppie up to the red light. Hold a trackstand for a full minute, hanging legs out to keep your balance, or just standing cool, poised: I don’t need to put my feet down. Race the bus full of dumb still people, weave through the traffic and pop out at the front, sail past a bus stop full of people who stare like cattle. My three quarter lengths show off my calf muscles, my forearms run tense into my gloves. I take my hands off the bars and put ‘em behind my back, hitch my ass up on the saddle and rest an elbow on my knee. It’s all good, however you ride: just be a rider. Ride right up to the door and park your bike there, don’t run in from your bus that’s late. Ride in the pissing rain, who cares?! Come in sweating; leave your trouser-leg tucked into your sock. Leave your helmet indoors. Ride with pride, and let everybody see it.