By Andy White
The heart is a funny thing. Like Billy Bragg said, “She cut her hair, and I stopped loving her.” True love isn’t so fickle.
I’ve tried to stop riding bikes. To see if it was really love. Just like coffee, a week down the road, I’m grumpy, anxious, and distracted.
In the year 2000, I traveled South America for nearly 5 months. Argentina to Colombia. Had a cumulative week on the bike in that time. I hung out with Alastair (Gravity Assisted MTB) in La Paz, Bolivia, and not content with riding the world’s deadliest road, I wanted a real challenge.
Alastair didn’t want to take a mtb ‘muppet’ out of his depth, so I had to prove I could ride the type of terrain we’d be facing. At the time I WAS out of my depth, but didn’t show it.
His guide would take us to the top of the mountain pass in his rickety Toyota 4WD. Mountains of some 4000+ metres. Fucking spectacular. I don’t say ‘fuck’ lightly. We’d find a trail head, which was a lama track cut into the steep side of these monoliths. I held on, grimaced, leaned back, let go. YEHAAAAAAAR!
This was primitive mountain biking, at least by todays standards. V-brakes, short travel forks, hardtails, flat pedals, flat out for three hours of descent into the valley below, where a steak bigger than your plate and a bowl of mash awaited you.
The exhilaration of being limited by your equipment and using your skill to compensate for the terrain is the same reason I love riding track bikes. As I split trams on Collins st I’m taken back to the narrow ledges you’d be forced to ride along, and massive trees you’d squeeze between. Skipping metal tracks on the road, like finding the jagged line through a rock garden. Or when it’s turn two and you’re bumping elbows with thighs on the bank at 60kph at the end of a motor pace, it’s the same ‘shit scared’ feeling of launching a gap and hoping to you land it.
Beyond all the fun that bikes provide, the people I’ve met through bikes far exceed any piece of glorious single track. Bikes even introduced me to my wife.
It is perhaps why even if I wanted to quit, it’d be like cutting off my arm to feed myself. Stupid.
In the recent population census, as my religion I put “cycling”. I pray every day. My love grows.
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