Riding to work

I’ve been using the fixie as transportation of choice at work a fair bit these days. I’m told it’s something I can’t do, something I shouldn’t do, not professional, customers find out and I’ll be history. Turns out most people don’t give a toss how you get there, they’re more concerned about what I do while I’m there.I must admit, I’ve had one customer who was visibly shocked by my transport. Of course, I turned up without my bag of tricks or instrument one. “Don’t need ’em,” I  told him a little too casually. With reluctance he let me into his office and we started on his job. We established our relationship and we’ve never looked back. “On the bike, walked, ridden a donkey?” he asks me now.I turn out well. I don’t wear bike clothes and don’t see the need for them. I can comfortably knock off 10kms without need of lycra. Thankfully this is a single-speed and fixie blog so most of my readers will understand that it’s possible to do a great many things in street clothes including turning pedals on a bike. But we’ve all seen those people who don full lycra for a 5km ride along level ground at an average pace of 5km/hr. Some people can’t even go for a walk with baby in pram without turning out in full Lorna Jane. I turn out for work with slacks, shoes, shirt, so I look like someone who is ready for work when I get there.

The author dressed and ready for work. I know, some people say I look just like George Clooney.

A lot of customers will never know I’ve cycled there. I park in the street and go up to the office and do my work and I’m never cross-examined about how I got there. There’s never an embarrassing pause before I mumble, “Bicycle,” and the owners exchange looks and the invisible question floats between them, “Holy shit, we’ve trusted our IT to a bicycle guy?”

Some of my customers are riders themelves so they’re only too pleased to see me on a bike. Frequently I have to disappoint them, too much gear to carry, too far to go on a subsequent job, or too bloody hot and humid. Summer is not a time to ride to work on the Gold Coast unless you like to arrive at your client’s site looking like you’ve ridden through a car wash.

Right now is the right time of year for cycling on the Gold Coast. The weather is mild and reliable, low-20s and sunny every day. (You know, like every day it’s not raining.) After months of rain we’ve suddenly hit a purple patch that lives up to the old tourism slogan, “Beautiful one day, perfect the next.” Here’s fifteen seconds of shaky-cam to prove how lucky I am:

When people find out I’ve ridden to site it often becomes a talking point. Car drivers will forget their hatred for bikes once they’re out of the car and remember instead the whimsy of youth (you know, that being the last time they rode) and the delights and freedom it provided. They don’t often acquaint  this feeling with a desire to ride, preferring instead to sit at traffic lights in cars watching cyclists ride past them. Bicycling is dangerous  and they’ll happily recount a few stories to prove it. You’d be hard pressed to convince the 80 year old guy I overtook yesterday that he was doing something daring as her ambled along on his rusty treadlie but I’ve spoken to plenty of people half his age who think cycling is akin to suicide. A lot of fixie riders seem to think it’s pretty hard core to ride a bike in the city, all tattooed up and attitude to prove it. I love city riding and have never thought I was hard core for doing it but then again I’ve always had brakes.

As I rode along the Broadwater the other morning on my way to see a customer in Main Beach my thoughts weren’t of the dangers of cycling, rather I looked out across the gorgeous vista of the broadwater and thought, “What a beautiful day to be alive.”

We’ve got friends who bang on about the environment right? I’ve got friends who are environmental scientists so hardly a day passes without them bothering someone about some little creature that’s going extinct. I know, as if anyone cares huh? If we did care would we drive our cars everywhere? Hard to imagine, not with all the news about global warming. (So now our side of the planet is warming too?) Good news though, apart from the farts from last night’s beer and pizza, a fixie is a zero emission vehicle.

To me, don’t ride a bike, don’t  get to join in the conversation about the environment. Banging on about how “they” aren’t doing for the environment looks kinda hollow once you finish off the sauvingnon-blanc and drive home. If you can’t be bothered leaving behind the vehicle that’s pumping nasty stuff directly into the air we breath then maybe that jute shopping back you take to Coles doesn’t make up for it.

I’ve heard people bang on about changing attitudes in society and how the government should lead change but they’re loath to do thing one themselves. With proper government incentives, we’re told, we’d all be driving electric vehicles, which are just like regular cars but without the layer of smog-laden guilt. These people ignore the fact that something as large and unwieldy as a car can never provide much of a solution to anything (unless the question is, how do we kill more cyclists?) because a one tonne vehicle will always require a vast amount of energy to get it moving, no matter where that energy comes from . We’re already fracking up the environment to make electricity so why are electric cars the stuff of angels?

In some cases, the very same people who worry me about what “they” are and are not doing for the environment are the same people who tell me I can’t ride to work. I would have thought though, that if my clients have negative feelings towards cycling then isn’t that precisely why I should cycle? You know, because I can change attitudes? It’s well known that the spread of conservatism mirrors the spread of the waste-line but they’re making up new worries because no-one else actually cares how I get from A to B.

Of course, if you don’t believe in global warming that’s fine. You may cherry-pick from a rather shallow pool of knowledge but at least you’re not a hypocrite and I respect that. It would be hard though not to believe in pollution. Putting global warming aside, a theory with near universal scientific support, and you still have a bunch of shitty gases coming out your exhaust, stuff you wouldn’t want to inhale and stuff that would kill you if inhaled in quantity. Before global warming we still had people who wanted clean air.

So I got up on a high-horse a little bit there. Always a dangerous place for me. I drive a car, drive it quite a bit, part of the job, and then there’s weekend trips to Byon Bay. I’m just saying that surely we can actually ride a bike when we really feel like it without having to worry about what someone else may think about it.

Of course, if you’re going to ride a bike for work you need  a way to cart your gear about. My wife uses her Ron D Swan panniers, which I can’t say enough good words for. They’re made out of recycled awnings and they’re almost indestructible. But panniers and fixies aren’t good friends so I use my BOG bag, the venerable Chunky Toad from Brisbane Outdoor Gear. I regularly carry loads of 10-20kgs in this bag and it’s always comfortable. It’s big enough for me to pack in a laptop, a router and some tools and still find room to pop in some more gear for the ride home. I brought home a UPS recently though I have to admit I wouldn’t rush to do this again.

One of two items that have made themselves indispensable this year, the other being the humble mudguard.

Biycle commuters often give cycle commuting a bad name. They’re just too…nice. They have intelligent solutions for carrying their loads, flouro vests, helmet mirrors and they obey all the traffic laws. I can almost fall off my bike at the tedium involved in just looking at them. Fixie riders are often guilty of the opposite, bunging on a fuck-you attitude to scare off the civilians. You ride in traffic often enough and you tend to get your goat up, so I can understand this. What I’m thinking though is maybe there’s a middle ground, and maybe we can just ride the way we ride where we ride when we want to ride. We can ride just because we love riding and if it happens to save the planet along the way, well that just proves who goddamned cool we are.

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