Free the Bikes

April 16, 2010

I knew my friend was going to survive – despite her protestations – when she managed to keep up a steady stream of complaint most of the way up the big hill. I had bullied her into this, this bike was too small, it was rubbish, the saddle was all wrong, she could have been there and back in the car by now, her legs were aching, it would be a mobility scooter for her after this after all.

And she was right about the bike. It was, more or less, this one, although without the ‘rattan effect’ basket (without any rack or basket at all, making it fairly useless as a shopper). She had borrowed the bike from a friend who had apparently bought it and then put it straight in the shed for a year – it still had cardboard packaging wrapped around some of the frame and the tyres were completely unworn. In many ways it was better than I had expected, not some mountain-bike-a-like, but a practical bike with mudguards and a chain guard and a kickstand that was unhelpfully too tall for it so it fell over if you used it, but nobody’s perfect. It also had the ugliest welds I have ever seen on anything. But it was a bike. And after we’d tackled the hill (and it was a long and tough hill) and survived and the adrenaline kicked in, my friend had a ball. We did a five mile round trip and when I rang her after I’d got home to make sure she’d survived she was all ready to go out again on the next jaunt. I don’t think she’ll be popping out for a paper, not on that bike anyway, and not for a while. But I do think she’s another convert. Although I’m not going to ring her to arrange the next ride until I reckon her legs will have recovered…

But seriously, what is it with buying a bike and then not using it? The sheds and garages of Britain must be filled with the things. And at the same time, there are people who’d like to have a crack at cycling but don’t want to rush out and buy a bike until they’re certain. Never mind bike hire schemes, we need a bike liberation scheme – get all those mouldering cycles before it’s too late and put them on the road. You know it makes sense. The bikes want to be free! Hell, even the bike-shaped objects want to be free…