Legends from our own lunchtimes

Monday, February 23, 2009


Bicycles are built with a sort of matter-magnet in their frames. It's an undiscovered substance that works like a black hole in space, attracting matter toward their frames.

Unfortunately, the larger the item, the more attractive it becomes and if it weighs something more than a bicycle, and appears to the casual observer to be immovable, it is very likely that the bicycle will propel itself towards the object. Probably the reason this has not been studied to date is that the action is very much akin to that of gravity, and in the vertical sense, is commonly mistaken for it. In the horizontal plane, there's no mistaking to be had.

I clearly remember being eight, and being taught to ride on a grown-up ladies bike by my father. He'd run beside me holding the seat, and then when I least expected it, he'd let go, while still running beside. From the moment he let go, the bike would swerve towards him, or if there was something larger and more immovable, towards that. Eventually I learned that by pedalling harder, one could speed past most of the obstacles. It worked for all but one.

I was learning to ride at Auntie Phyl's place you see, and her driveway was sloping from the street to the back yard. This meant that at the beginning of the run, down beside the house, there was enough pace to overcome 'the force', at the bottom of the drive there was a chook run, which necessitated a left hand turn, and there was still enough momentum to avoid that as well.

The tricky bit was the clothes hoist, sitting alone in the middle of the yard. It was there, with no more than twenty metres to spare on either side, radiating its attractive force. Mostly I would manage to stop, or at least fall off before I became entangled with it. Mostly.

In a desperate bid to overcome it, on one fateful run, I decided to just accelerate past. A grand plan, and one that should have worked. That mysterious force grabbed the bike and shot it headlong into the solitary pole, as though guided by some invisible rail. In those days before helmets, I may have considered that I was lucky as my head narrowly missed hitting the pole, but the only thing that stopped my groiny bits coming to a gentle rest against it was the thoughtfully positioned handlebar gooseneck.

Sadly there were witnesses to this catastrophe, one of them being a mother who sympathetically warned me that if I cried I never get on a bike again!

Traumatised and cross-eyed though I may have been, I persevered, and eventually discovered the skill set which was to give me hours of freedom during my adolescent years and beyond, although to this day one of my eyes still produces tears at the most inopportune times.

For more than twenty years I repressed the joys of this process and the knowledge of overcoming bicycle magnetism I had accrued on the way, until it was all brought back with a shuddering jolt.

My youngest you see had reached an age when she really should discover the joys of two wheeling. In a concerted effort not to repeat the trauma of my own youth, we went to a park, completely devoid of clothes lines, poles, or obstructions of any kind, with a thoughtfully positioned picnic shelter at each end.

All went well for a time. She quickly gained confidence and pedalled off towards the horizon as though she'd been doing it all her life. She was not even within 20 metres of the picnic shelter, when the bike of its own accord suddenly and deliberately changed course to ensure that when the collision happened, it would be exactly at the centre of the structure.

She was perturbed, but only a little. Dusting herself off, she headed off in the opposite direction to the shed, a sensible plan it would have seemed, had it not been for that magnetic substance. We watched awe struck as the cycle scribed a perfect arc completed only after impact with the exact centre of the next side of the shelter.

She became a little more perturbed.

Her state of perturbment, if there is such a thing, seemed to rise in direct proportion to our state of mirth, as we watched incredulously while the whole process repeated itself a third, and then a fourth time before unfolding into a fore runner of the sort of reaction described by Julian quite recently.

A teacher of mine once remarked (see I did listen sometimes), that if you do something once it could be considered a feat, to do it a second time is OK as it proves it wasn't a fluke, but more than that is just showing off.

Why would one want to show off about running into a picnic shelter while riding a bike?


1 comment

Colinp29 said...

Wonderful memories of a ladies bike


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