By The Free Rider, Craig Richards, 3 August 2016
I’m sure I’m not the only person in trouble with their partner for their bike spending. But I might just be the only person in trouble for not spending enough.
You see my Christmas, yes Christmas, present was a new bike: and I haven’t bought it yet. December was crazy. January I needed to regroup. February was frantic. March was just mad. And now it’s August!
Excuses, excuses. Who doesn’t have time to buy a new bike when they have a wave of green lights? There must be something deeper behind this. So I lay on a leather couch and asked myself, ‘Why haven’t I bought a bike?’
I started by thinking about my relationship with my current bike, Big Red. He was my 40th birthday present. We’ve been through a lot together. He helped me morph from a recreational path rider into a commuter. Big Red gave me the hutzpah to ride down a street with trams and parked cars when there’s no separated lanes.
I’d told myself a new bike would be like cheating on Big Red. But I know he needs a rest. The poor old boy is falling apart. Then I thought more deeply about it and the reality is Big Red is more than just a bike: he’s a symbol of rebellion.
I know I’m judged by the fact that Big Red’s a $350 mountain bike. For the 8 years I’ve been a Bicycle Network team member I’ve heard the sneers. ‘He rides that cheap old mountain bike.’ ‘He rides a bike but he’s not a real rider’ ‘He doesn’t even know how to strip his hub.’ (Imagine if people found out I don’t know, or care, what a hub is.)
Big Red has been my partner in defiance. He’s a way of saying to all the judgers, ‘I don’t care, I’m riding Big Red and showing the next wave of riders they can get their daily exercise without ponying up for a Pinarello!’
Which doesn’t answer the question: why haven’t I bought a new bike? Then it hit me like an angry Bavarian Slap Dancer: oh crap, I care what people think!
I thought about a meeting when we were trying to nut out a policy. Mr Frustrated who didn’t like the direction I was steering the ship thought getting personal might make me buckle, ‘You just want to be popular!’
What rubbish! At school I trained myself not to care what the judgers think. I ignored the taunting about my 1970s Ironman tracksuit only having two stripes. I didn’t react when a crowd gathered to laugh because my school shoes weren’t Clarks. I grinned when in Grade 4 me and my Pony sports shoes were greeted with a catchy little ditty He is the Ponyman.
I built a force field and let the judgement bullets bounce off me (while hoping like hell the Pony shoes or 2 striped tracksuit got holes in them so I could get me some adi or Puma).
When I think back on it I was no saint. There were times I gave as good as I got. I used to get a fair bit of stick about Mum’s Datsun 120Y. I returned serve with interest about Ian Hodgson’s Mum’s old volksy being powered by egg beaters. I’ll never forget sitting in the back of that volksy one day and getting a withering spray from Mrs H.
But you know what, I think Mr Frustrated hit the bullseye: when it comes to bikes I’m back in primary school and looking for a favourable verdict from some pretty tough judges.
And now there’s even more on the line: worse than judging me unworthy, they’ll rule against my beloved Bicycle Network. If my new bike doesn’t cut it in the judgemental world of bikes the haters will come even harder.
Mr Frustrated is right: I want everyone who cares about changing Australia into a nation of bike riders to love Bicycle Network. I want them to join forces and help us change the world instead of slinging social media mud at us every time there’s a few spits of rain.
But, sadly I don’t think it’ll happen. I think about when I used to work at the Carlton Football Club. Our harshest critics were our most passionate supporters. They’d go to games and relentlessly hurl abuse at our players.
So what should I do? I could open it up for comment: ask the saddle chair experts what bike I should buy? Then go with the one that gets the most votes or is recommended by the loudest voices.
No, I’m going to stand tough. Pick the bike I like. I might pick it because I like the colour. It might be the name. I might even look at the specs. But however I choose it’s up to me. After all, riding a bike is about being free. It’s about being who you want to be, not who others want you to be.
And the best thing is that if I just do what I want I’ll please the person who matters most and judges me the fairest: my wonderful partner who wants me to spend money on a bike.