Peering From The Inside Out

There’s been a bit less of the usual kind of riding going on of late for obvious reasons. This has meant less blog fodder for me hence the larger than desirable gap since the last post. So in this post I’ll be meandering off the main theme of this blog (gasp!) for a while to fill the voids. Well, that and because I’m a curmudgeonly old contrarian who delights in throwing rocks into the mirror pond of the status quo. Don’t worry though, I promise there’ll be bike stuff too.

So, this whole lockdown situation sucks and there’s a million things I can think of that I’d rather be doing and a million places I’d rather be but it’s totally necessary and infinitely better than the alternative. Now, no disrespect to those who this situation has hit hardest – those who have lost loved ones, income and good health. We absolutely need to keep helping those people as best as we can even at continued economic cost. But at the same time I think we should look at this development as an opportunity if for no reason other than because there’s nothing we can do to change what happened anyway so why not focus on the possible silver lining rather than the black cloud that looms.

Some might ask what possible silver lining there could be and that’s fair enough. One item off the top of my head is the (unfortunately most likely temporary) respite that’s been given to our Mother Nature. A small thing that ain’t. That mighty affirmation of just how much impact we humans have on our natural world has, in the blink of an eye, been laid bare for all to see but the trick now is to see how this lesson will be heeded when we come out the other side of the pandemic. The usual clowns will be gunning for business as usual. Those with at least some idea and without the same propensity for greed will use this as a demonstration of how much can be achieved in even a small amount of time and push hard to rebuild the economic house on higher ground. Which way we ultimately head will, as usual, come down to culture and politics.

Another seemingly impossible positive is the way that Australia’s and other countries’ governments have responded. In a world of extreme fiscal conservatism and hyper-libertarianism, the coronavirus pandemic has shone brightly through the holes in the current system and exposed it’s deficiencies as said governments spin on a dime from small state fanatics to paternalistic guardians of the populace providing much needed income support and business stimulus. It seems an event like the current pandemic is a little too much for the invisible hand of the market to deal with and perhaps another lesson on the limitations of a mantra of “just in time”, “endless growth”, “fend for yourself” and “safety nets are too expensive”.

Anyway, that’s enough needling from me. “What have your bicycles been up to?”, you probably didn’t just ask (I’ll try and make that the last annoying self-question). Well, they’ve actually been helping me out quite a bit. I’m fortunate enough to be able to carry on my day to day occupation in a work from home arrangement so commuting is definitely out which has unfortunately lead to some rather sedentary days. So, to combat the build up of “sedentary sediment”, I’ve taken to grabbing the Brompton of an evening and hitting the bikeways and back streets on short but swift miniature werewolf runs to reawaken the senses and make me feel human again. As do all night rides, these little jaunts conjure up images of space travel and floating through other dimensions as burning legs are tempered by cool, dark air while sounds of the night top off the multisensory spectre. I choose the Brompton for these trips because it feels snappy on the twisty parts of the bikeways and also because I feel slightly guilty not using it while the trains are a no go. Either way it’s been a real joy to ride.

Brompton folding bike night ride

Brompton ride empty street

Weekends, and especially the long ones, give me extra time for some longer trips and, while current health directives tell me I shouldn’t stop and dilly-dally anywhere which effectively cuts out any rides requiring a lunch stop, I am encouraged to exercise which is conducive with a mixed terrain roll on a mountain bike as long as I take it easy enough that I won’t require any medical attention. Fortunately, Brisbane has enough conservation areas, parks and offroad shortcuts to be able to stitch together some really pleasant little jaunts while remaining fairly close to home.

Scott hardtail wooden shed

Riding Chermside Hills reserve

Spider Hill mountain bike

Then, of course, there’s my still new and very good friend, the Yuba Boda Boda which I’ve been dutifully using to kill two birds with one stone as I get some light exercise while darting about to fetch life’s essentials. And what a great break from the great indoors that can also provide with quiet streets and fresh air aplenty. The local neighborhood really is my oyster.

Yuba cargo bike with shopping bag

That’s about all I have for today except for this parting note: it’s quite curious to see now just how many people are coming out of their homes to exercise and to take in some fresh air now that so much of the polluting, noisy and dangerous traffic has evaporated away. Kids riding bikes and scooters, people with dogs – it feels like a kind of re-balancing of priorities, a return to how things ought to be. And people on bikes, noticeably more than usual. Going to fetch essentials, getting some exercise. Maybe for some it’s a habit that will stick for the longer term and help shift some of the priorities around transportation in this town. It’d be a shame to waste the few benefits this calamity has provided.

Ride safe and see you out there sometime (from a good social distance).

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