Biketastic

Rock LobsterShortly after I met Wil I bought my first mountain bike. At the time I was into running and I was tallying up about 25 miles per week during a series of short runs every other day and one long one at the end of the week. When Wil came along he brought with him a sick obsessive passion for biking that he’d harbored for many years. Who the hell bikes anywhere for enjoyment? I thought. Who the hell runs for pleasure? he thought.

One weekend he rode over to my house on his mountain bike – a bright yellow and red GT with black nobbly tyres, front suspension and disk brakes. It was affectionately known as ‘the Fruit Salad’ due to it’s resemblance to a small red and yellow chewy sweet most kids grew up on. ‘Yes well I have a bike too’ I scoffed and pointed out to the nuclear green rusty old frame labeled ‘THE RALEIGH LIZARD’ leaning up against the wall in the conservatory awaiting it’s annual outing before being banished to the corner again on account of it being HELL on two wheels.

I got that old bike from a friend who was going to throw it away. I didn’t have a bike at the time and the idea of returning to those halcyon teenage years spent riding my old Puch Racer to school with the greatest of ease in ANY weather, wearing a tight skirt with bare legs, appealed greatly. That was until I was on the way from my friends house where I encountered my first hill. Not understanding the gears properly I must have been using the biggest ring on the front – the one with ‘EXPLODE YOUR KNEE CAPS’ written in small print next to the setting. Not only did my knee caps nearly launch themselves but my lungs were not far behind as I strugged and wheezed up the hill pushing each pedal slowly forward as though I were laying on my back doing leg presses with two elephants balanced atop my feet. I must have looked a picture of beetroot tinted death to the full load of passengers on the town bus as I sat heaped at the side of the road catching my breath.

With experiences like that one can understand why I wrote off cycling along with other things like repeatedly poking myself in the eyes with a fork. That is, until I mounted the Fruit Salad and it drew me in with its proper gears and smooth cranks. The brakes actually worked without making a sound that prompted seagulls to reply and the handlebars and seat were all comfortable. The cushy forks on the front made every bump and pothole become soft, like dipping a spoon into a bowl of custard. Yes.. I liked THIS kind of biking. But THIS kind of biking came at a price and only the hardcore who have made it beyond those clunky old hard work frames that most local bike shops sell for £79.99 know about it.

It wasn’t long before the Fruit Salad and its easy rideable dreaminess had me browsing the pages of internet mountain biking shops looking for my own little slice of smooth cycling. When I finally found it I didn’t hesitate in ordering the black and white chunky framed Scott Voltage YZO. With pretty nice Shimano disk brakes, gears and cranks it was made up of an aluminium tubing frame light enough to ride all day but strong enough to survive drops down sheer cliff faces – one or two of which it has been close to in it’s time, usually with me dangling precariously from it. One problem though – the delivery took so long that I was going to be bikeless on our first planned biking trip. Very kindly the bike shop loaned me a little bike they had tucked away in the back room for such instances.

The little bike looked very ‘business’. A small white frame with cracked and peeling stickers and rigid forks on the front. It had apparently been set up and used by the shops cross country (XC) girls racing team. It was extremely lightweight and the gears were smooth. The handlebars had little end parts on them that pointed forward like a bulls horns but were specifically for keeping your hands turned at the correct angle to prevent wrist/hand fatigue. Wil referred to it as ‘awesome’ and ‘a bit vintage’ and also, ‘proper retro’. He said that this bike was fairly old (see 1990 something) and that the bits on it would have been top notch for their time and infact are still good quality bits.

I began using the little bike, the ‘Bontrager OR’, for cycling to and from work. Even on the semi slick tyres the speed you could get up to on the road was phenomenal with hardly any effort at all. Some weeks later, my new bike arrived and not only did this this mean the end of my newly formed fond relationship with ‘Bonty’ it was also the end of things bright green and labeled ‘LIZARD’ as the old Raleigh was taken from the confines of the conservatory on it’s farewell voyage to a frosty cold car boot sale in the middle of town.

Three Christmasses ago as Cameron had just finished tearing into his presents I was led outside by Wil and there in the driveway I was greeted by that same little white Bontrager leaning against the side of the garage, the same one which I’d used while waiting for my new bike to arrive previously. I’d become so attached to it during our few weeks commuting to and from work that I was nearly dissapointed that my new bike had arrived! Wil remembered and went back to the shop a year on and begged them to sell it to him.

I still have my Scott YZO – my first proper bike, the one on which I suffered my biggest crash – the crash where I tore my arm off, dislocated my shoulder blade and arm, broke my collar bone in two places, splintered the end of my collar bone and knocked myself out. The crash which, if I had any sense at all, should have turned me against biking for good. Two years and two surgeries on, that arm nearly bores no trace of the gravitas of that horrid day and neither does the bike. The ragdoll tumble it took down the gravel track of the mountain biking trail should have shaken it to bits but it seems I took the brunt for both of us.

At the end of last year I took Bonty off the road and with the help of Wil, an allen key and a bike stand he was reduced to a bare frame and a pile of parts which spent the best part of 6 months laying in a heap on the shelf in the garage. Wil had discovered a large area of rust just underneath the cranks (where the pedals are fixed) and left untreated this would have made a short work of the steel frame. A couple of years biking through winter salt-gritted roads had taken a toll and now a paint job was in order. In the meantime I pulled the Scott out and put the slick tyres back on but I found after a couple of rides I’d sort of outgrown him, not physically but mentally. He was already tarred as being the bike I’d had the nasty accident on and being the kind of bike made for riding those kind of rides on it just wasn’t for me anymore.

I then bought the bike I’d lusted after with eyes bigger than my purse when I’d chosen the Scott. A Merlin Rock Lobster. Another steel framed bike, not particularly lightweight but a good all rounder – purported to be fast and responsive down trails but equally capable of commuting on roads. So far I’ve only used it for the latter and let me tell you – I’m spoilt. It’s smooth even though I haven’t bothered to replace the knobbly tyres with slicker faster road tyres I hardly notice the difference. The Scott would nearly grind to a halt if I left knobbly tyres on it on the road.

I’ve commuted on the Lobster for a few months only interchanging it with the scooter on those days I felt I need a rest.

A couple of weekends ago Bonty was finally re-painted and re-built along with new gear and brake cables, fresh grease, new stickers and lots of TLC from the man with the allen key (that’s Wil). I sat in the garage watching as he collected Bonty’s parts from the shelf and assembled them carefully on the bright shiny white frame. Bonty left the bike stand a new bike with a fresh new meaning of BUSINESS and then sat there leaning against the other pile of bikes as I continued to commute on the Lobster! I’d got so used to Bonty’s absence that I’d forgotten he was now sat there in his newly assembled glory. This morning I got half a mile down the road on the Lobster when it suddenly dawned on me that Bonty was still sat in the garage awaiting his maiden voyage so I promptly U-turned and road back home to swap bikes.

Riding normal flat pedals with SPD Shoes is interesting but I didn’t have time to run inside and change my shoes during this spur-of-the-moment bike swap. I cruised out of the close at the speed of lighting and where I’d normally coast to the end of the road taking advantage of the downward slope I pedaled. I pedaled like my life depended on it.

That is what Bonty does to you – you pedal, not slowly but fast. Not calmly, like a maniac, in the biggest gear he’s got and like your arse is on fire. This is what Bonty means when he gives you that ‘BUSINESS’ look. The business look means that you are going to get to where you are going but you’re going to get there in half the time and if you choose to sit on that seat, well, your arse is going to kill you because HOW THE HELL ARE YOU GOING TO PEDAL LIKE THERE IS A HUNGRY LION ON YOUR TAIL IF YOU’RE SITTING DOWN?!! HEY? ANSWER BONTY THAT.

That’s right – riding to work on Bonty is all about having some sort of mental breakdown the entire way. Thoughts about just knocking it back a few gears and maybe just spinning for a little way so as to catch your breath can just go straight to hell – the same ‘hell’ as the ‘hell for leather’ you should be riding at. It’s partially the lightweight build and partially the strange gearing and very much the low down bars with the little ends that lean you in a position which points you forward like a dart and makes you grit your teeth and snarl. The rigid forks hammer you through bumps and dips in the road but eventually you gain so much speed that you clear the surface of the road by gliding millimeters above it instead of on it.

I hadn’t realised how lazy I’d become wafting around from place to place on the Lobster like every day was a big party. I chuckled to myself as I rode along thinking about the newly vamped Bonty and how long I’d had him and how many miles we’d covered and finally how I used to think he was effortless to ride. But then again after that Raleigh Lizard a donkey with no legs would have been effortless to ride.

I’ve written a couple of pages on biking to work, they’re linked in the sidebar or click here to read more.

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7 Comments »

  1. Wil said

    As Trotski once said, ‘Skids and wheelies doth maketh the man’…..possibly.

  2. This blog is related to Scott Mountain Bikes that one must own it because the prices are also cheaper. These bikes are rough and tough and can be sustained easily at mountains.

  3. Foxsden said

    An interesting arrangement of words – even if it is spam.

  4. I’ve been thinking about getting a bike – really for fitness… my trouble is that I only live 5 minutes walk from work and I have no idea how to ride on roads…

    I love your writing though. You have a very easy style and it’s of novel quality. If there were pages I’d be turning them…. you have made me *want* a bike…

  5. foxsden said

    Nutty – Thank you so much – that comment has made my day.

    I was in the same position when Wil first got me into biking. The best way to go about it is by riding on the quieter roads you feel comfortable with and then hop onto the pavements when you feel out of your depth. As long as you don’t tear past pedestrians and realise they have right of way no one minds (I’ve even been left alone by coppers). But it helps you build your confidence slowly. Once you can go along, ride with one hand and look behind you without veering to the other side of the road you’ll be fine! 5 min trip to work would be a perfect way to start because you wouldnt need to get kitted up.

  6. oh I’m pleased 🙂 I meant it too so that’s even better 🙂

    What kind if bike would you think?

  7. foxsden said

    Look at http://www.chainreactioncycles.com at the the GT Range – and don’t be fooled into thinking you need a Lady Specific bike. I’ve only had standard frames and had no trouble with them being comfortable.
    If you can afford one with disk brakes all the better (but not necessary)!

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