There are many ways of getting to lectures every morning. Sledge dogs are fun, but are rather difficult to implement without snow and need constant care. Likewise, riding a horse whilst clad in a red cape and with a sabre to your morning tutorial raises problems of where to park it. I have therefore decided to compromise and get a bike instead. And I have fallen in love.
Morning walks were fun, for a bit. Then things went awry. So bad, in fact, that, having been bored even of the Beethoven on my iPod (and imagining how I will conquer a small Pacific island country), I resorted to listening to Green Day or to calling my family and asking them to sing something for me. A bike solved all of that.
Minor failures and setbacks, such as jeans ripping, chain falling off and knocking over other stationary bikes, all within the space of two minutes, do little to demotivate the dedicated cyclist. They merely add to the feeling of adventure that the whole trip has associated with it. Furthermore, with the purchase of a helmet, it is now possible to expand my repertoire of elaborate and perhaps legally questionable traffic moves.
Suddenly, a bus appears. The same bus that was still filling with people as I was leaving DRA. The bike ride to the library instantly becomes a dog-eat-dog style race, except that right now a bike is trying to eat a bus, which is slightly problematic logistically. The bus is powered by internal combustion. My bike can only rely on the pasta I had for lunch as a source of energy. Yet, as the bus pulls up to stop and picks up a pensioner, I am filled with hope. Perhaps I can cross the magic boundary of the Whey Pat roundabout before the bus. Soon thereafter, however, despite my heavy pedalling, I hear a loud noise beside me, a strong wind in my face. And I dare not turn to the right, for the mighty bus seems to have overtaken me. Yet next time, once I become the next Lance Armstrong, I will beat that bus, I promise myself. And, still slightly shaken by that overtake, I continue on in my journey.
Then, I see another cyclist on the road, going the same direction as me. For the other cyclist, this is probably a leisurely trip to the supermarket. For me, this is war. I speed up, my heart rate skyrockets and I switch the gears up. I put on my concentrated face and overtake the other cyclist, once again in a potentially questionable manoeuvre. With a smug smile on my face, I cycle on, leaving the other person far behind me. And then roll in as gracefully as possible into a cycle parking, like a drone that silently lands following a kill. This wasn’t a commute. This was a war. And I won.
Cycling isn’t merely a way to get from one point to another. It is an entire journey, comprising blood, sweat, tears, mud and the occasional chain oil. And experiencing the road from somewhere else than the comfortable seat of a car provides new insights into the local drivers. Suddenly, drivers just don’t seem to give signals anymore when you rely on them doing so. And what seems like highly dubious driving practices from a cyclists’ perspective often creates a highly tempting opportunity to become highly creative with your middle finger. Or to utilise your much expanded repertoire of highly selective, elaborate and descriptive insults. Nonetheless, I have to resist the temptation. Road rage is bad. Particularly when arriving close to the library and the police station is near.
And, in what felt more like The Odyssey than a simple trip, I finally arrive at my library. And I feel ecstatic, as if a certain requirement of my morning routine was fulfilled. For I have come at the realisation that, unless you arrive with bad hair, legs that feel like they are made of rubber and a butt that feels as if you have sat on a hedgehog, you have not travelled, you have not been on a journey. You have merely commuted.