I like to think I am reasonably fit. Heading for middle age ( note to self: Admit it, you are there already) so maybe I can’t run the 100 metres as fast as I used to and will really have to stop looking at Usain Bolt on the telly when drunk and convincing myself, I could take him...
So last year I bought a bike. In fairness to the government of our little Irish state, one of the good ideas that has been introduced is the cycle to work scheme. In short it allows you to buy a bike with half the tax knocked off and pay it off over a year. The idea is to get people out on their bikes and to stop hogging the city with cars. All well and good if you live in Sydney, but with the harsh Irish winter and daylight coming as often as it does in Alaska, it is not always the most enticing of options to get out on your bike. I digress.
So I bought the bike. I like to think I am streetwise enough so had a fair idea of what I was looking for and even brought along a more experienced bike riding friend to bounce ideas off. So after much viewing and throwing my legs over more saddles that John Wayne, I decided on “the beast”. My friend who must have felt like a husband does in a boutique was starting to tire of the shopping thing and was starting to suggest bikes with a lime green streak on the frame, much to my horror. I envisioned myself pulsing down a road like a human snot and quickly dismissed his suggestions before choosing my new blue bike. However, when the bike was handed to me I laughed at the assistant.
“Does it come with Oars?” I asked looking down at the pedal – less machine.
“Oh pedals are separate.” He replied.
I looked at him as if he had told me you won the lottery alright but you have to swim to Nigeria to pick up your winnings.
I deliberated this point with him, for a few moments ( well actually twenty minutes) as if I could change the whole cycling industry and convince everyone that a bike has always come with pedals and it is outrageous to suggest having to buy this extra and that I never had this problem when I got my Chopper in 1976! That even had plastic tassels that stuck out of the handlebars. But I was on a loser and had to buy the pedals separately. As far as I know they were eighty euro. So when these were put on to the bike “free of charge” ( so well you might I have only given you a thousand euro for a piece of lightweight carbon) I felt I was ready to go.
“Very small?” I said to my friend pointing at the new pedals who was now sitting with legs stretched in front of him lapsing in and out of a coma.
“You need Cleats”.
“Sorry?” I asked again. The lottery ticket agent in Nigeria was beaming at me with pearly white teeth in a balloon above my head.
“Cleats. They snap into those pedals. All the cyclists use them. Makes you go faster.”
“Oh,” I replied, nodding as if it all made perfect sense. How silly of me not wanting to be securely snapped into my pedals as I went to the shops.
“But how do I put them on my shoes? Do they snap on or do I use a strap?”
He laughed at my ignorance.
“You have to buy cycling shoes.”
Now this is where I felt like someone in a film where everyone he ever knew doesn’t recognise him anymore and this is all a conspiracy. Surely they were all mad and the whole “no pedals and snappy in shoes” were an elaborate hoax and someone was going to come out and say “Ha! we had you there...here is your real bike and you can wear your runners ...just like you did when you were eight!”
So to the known trained cyclist ( no need to be ashamed dear reader this was me eighteen months ago) Cyclists wear shoes that have a facility on their sole to connect “cleats”. Small pieces of plastic which in turn clip into the pedals. So you are fully snapped in to the bike and man and machine cannot be distinguished from one another. Apart from one being sleek and aerodynamic, the other middle aged, overweight, sweating and heading for a crisis.
When I went home and told my beloved, the department of witchcraft and beauty, that I had bought my new bike, without the pedals, I was given a look that I can only describe as the look Jack’s mother gave him when he came home with the beans after selling the cow.
“Sure that’s like selling you a car with no engine?”
“Sure that’s stupid”
“And you bought it?”
After years of marriage a man learns to suck it all up as it were. As my dad used say “You have to listen to thunder.” But there is only so far you can divert a woman’s attention away and inevitably it all comes crashing down.
“So how much were the pedals”
“About Eighty?! How much were they?”
“I don’t know...this bike is costing an awful lot more than what you said.”
“But it’s a great deal really”
She got back to her book and with a face that wasn’t convinced.
“What’s in the box?”
The book was down again. Not good.
“What? Sure you only got shoes last week for work?”
“Yeh but these are ....special shoes”
“What are you disabled?”
“No...they are for the bike?”
“Hang on. Let me get this straight. You have to wear shoes on a bike now? With no pedals?
“It has pedals...and they are not really shoes....more sporty...like runners.”
There was a sigh of exasperation. Thank God she didn’t know they were dearer than the pedals.
“How much were the shoes?”
But I was gone.
I’d like to tell you the story ended well. It did in fairness. The question never came up again. I daren’t take the car to work...have to show the value I am getting for the bike...and the pedals and the shoes. It’s a killer in the snow.
The sad part was that I took the bike out for the first time with my new shoes. Leg over again like John Wayne and, snap. One foot in. Now what nobody told me is that you are to kick off and then snap the other foot in. But silly me. I didn’t know that. So before moving I snapped the second foot in. So I am now snapped into the pedals...and not moving. Think Circus act, think Coyote from Road Runner when he runs out of cliff and is in mid air. Think tree in the forest as someone shouts “Timber!” And in one fleeting moment I was down on the grass in my front garden with my legs acting as a sandwich to an alloy special.
The department came out looking at me in bemusement with the children.
“Did Daddy get new Shoes Mam?”
“Yes dear. They are to keep him safe on his bike.”