CYCLE CULTURE by Kim Robyn Smith

by Jan 7, 2021 | Featured Stories, Writers in Residence

They gather at the Homemaker Centre. Large groups congregate, dictated by ability. Pink lycra- clad ladies hover in anticipation of the beginner’s cruise.

 The cyclists meander out onto the Nepean Highway. A single bright beam streams from the front and rear of each bike. The head and taillights flicker spasmodically.

Tanned, smooth, shaven legs, regardless of gender, are on display in skin-tight knicks. Well-defined calf muscles bulge as they work those pedals with fury.

Water bottles are sipped and expertly returned to cages on carbon frames without missing a pedal stroke.

The “fast group” leader yells, ‘Rider up!’ She is built like a whippet and holds a strong team of males with the occasional female thrown in. The command is passed down the line.

 The bunch move past a lone cyclist at high speed. Sweat is left in their wake.

Uninvited, the sole rider hangs onto the back of the bunch with desperation. After a short sprint he is spat out without a backward glance from the bunch.

A pair hunch over upturned bikes halfway up Balcombe Hill. They carry out a puncture repair then return to the day’s ascent.

The elite branch off and head up to Arthurs Seat in search of a harrowing feat.

The bay glistens as the riders spin past Anthony’s Nose. They catch a glimpse of fishing boats and kayaks motoring along on a calm sea. Cars sit patiently behind waiting for an opportunity to pass.

Brakes squeal on rims as the promise of refreshment looms near.

Cleated shoes clip on the polished concrete floor of the Blue Bay café like an ungainly tap dance. Cyclists spill onto the outdoor settings. Helmets with purpose built sunnies and fingerless gloves stuffed within, share table space with lattés and banana muffins.

Dazzling multicoloured co-ordinated kits chosen with more care than an outfit for a gala dinner provide a topic of discussion over coffee.

A track-suited couple admire the row of parked bikes. The pair enquire about a particular bike’s components. A commentary like a television commercial is presented to the eager listeners.

 The novices agree to join the beginner’s group next week.  More recruits to the addictive sport causes its current members to beam.

They eat and drink with haste, then rise to resume the torture with likeminded “must maintain that average” mentality.

The riders roll out single file onto the bitumen. They move out wide as cars are parked in the bike lane.

Motorists sit behind at an unbearable slow speed for the next few k’s. Their annoyance seems to convert to acceptance.

Or does it? 

One dark cloud invades the blue sky. The light breeze intensifies slightly. Another cloud appears.

 Wheels screech as a red traffic light appears. Synchronised clicks as a left foot is unclipped and hits the ground for balance. The odd rider balances with more skill than a circus act.

Hand holding couples, families with harnessed dogs and old ladies behind walking frames cross with compliance of the little green man.

A bus passes in stealth mode as the riders move off.

The cyclists circle the last roundabout in Sorento: the designated midway point.

The return journey throws up a head wind and unexpected heavy raindrops sting like razor sharp needles. The sun is hidden behind a black sky. Cars switch on their lights.

Beach buckets and boogie boards are replaced with umbrellas that blow inside out.

Boats head for shore.

The elite group roll back down to the highway, satisfied with their repeats of the Arthurs Seat climb. They hook onto the back of the bunch.

 The cyclists power through. The bunch thins as each drops off in turn.

The remaining cyclist battles the inclement weather back to Mount Eliza.

Home at last. Soaked by the downpour, whiffy and tired but wearing a smile.

The “cycle-widow” greets her hubby at the door. She enquires about his ride in a perfunctory tone.

The weary rider launches into cycle spiel that is half listened to.

Time to examine the data on the bike computer. He nods. Happy with this morning’s results.

His phone is whipped out and texts are shot around. The specific jargon of average speed and cadence is exchanged to re-live this morning’s experience. His phone pings as he is flooded with “thumbs ups.”

He calls his favourite riding companion with an invitation to join him this afternoon for the rounds of the bike shops.

As an afterthought, the cyclist looks to his wife. He asks if she minds if he heads out to pick up some chain lube and new tyres.

The “cycle-widow” sighs.

 It’s just another typical cycling Saturday.