It was sunrise when I arrived at the Bike Hire shop. There was no one else in sight at that time of day which was exactly what I wanted. I waited for a few minutes before slamming the palm of my hand on the bell that was sitting on the counter. Finally, service was coming. I heard the sound of the cleats on the cement floor before catching sight of the lycra outfit tottering above them. Although I was up for the challenge I was starting to feel very uncomfortable after catching first glimpse of Lycra Boy. There was no time to turn around and get an Uber straight back home.
The polka dot jersey
Lycra Boy looked about twelve years old and dressed as though he had won a stage of the ‘Tour de France’ in his polka dot jersey. Standing on his podium behind the counter, he shoved a piece of paper towards me. I looked around for someone grown up to do business with but there was no one. It appeared Lycra Boy was it.
“Read and sign” he ordered as he pointed to something that looked like a dotted line. I had no idea what it said but it was clear Lycra Boy wasn’t up for any questions. I carefully scribbled my signature to where he was pointing. Then I handed him my credit card to complete the transaction.
“Helmet?” he asked.
Then he rattled off a few of the bikes on offer. I gathered I had a choice as I was the first customer for the day.
“Malvern Star, Polygon, Avanti ….. “ The fancy names didn’t mean anything to me so I just said
“I’ll have the red one thanks’.
He gave a big yawn as he pulled the red bike off its stand. “Ever ridden one of these before?’ he enquired in his usual condescending tone. My inner voice said shove off but my outer voice was silent as I struggled to fasten the chin strap on the helmet.
Together we were cruising
I felt it my duty to show the little upstart that I could ride one of these babies. I had a few attempts at mounting the bike. At last I was in the saddle and heading down the bike track albeit swaying unsteadily from side to side. Woohoo! Nothing to it! Suddenly the bike was gathering momentum and together we were cruising. How good was I? If Lycra Boy could’ve seen me at the cruising stage I’m sure he would’ve treated me with respect. Maybe.
Watch out for fences
The morning light was increasing as the sun was rising on the horizon. I had my squinty eyes transfixed on the white strip in the middle of the bike track. One kilometre. Done. Then two kilometres. Done. The time flashed by so quickly. It didn’t seem long before I had to turn around and return the bicycle. I was almost back to the Bike Hire shop when I started to feel tired and my concentration was waning. I completely lost sight of the white strip and veered too much to the left-hand side of the bike track into the cyclone fencing. Unfortunately, the handle bar got caught in a chain link of the fence which ended my bike ride abruptly.
Crash and then splat
So down I went. My body hit the concrete track with a thud and the bike landed on top of me. Except for a bruised ego, a couple of skinned knees and a grazed elbow I was OK. I extracted myself from underneath the bike, grabbed the handlebars and slowly pushed it the rest of the way back to the Bike Hire shop. Lycra Boy came out to meet me. He checked the bike over for any injuries and placed it back in its stand.
A successful day
All in all, the day was a great success in two ways. My personal bike challenge reaffirmed that cycling was something I could still do after a fifty-year break and the loss of ninety percent of my eyesight. Secondly, the cyclone fencing prevented me from riding over a cliff.
The tandem bike
I was so inspired by my own efforts that I wanted to make bike riding a regular thing. It was one of those things that I just had to do. However, I didn’t want to have to deal with a bike hire shop ever again and risk being treated in such a patronising way. So there was only one thing to do. I got my own bike – a beautiful white tandem. And a pilot as well! A much safer option for a blind person.
Thanks Lycra Boy – you changed my life!