August 19, 2015 § 1 Comment
This could be my penultimate blog on my Year ‘o Cycling. I’ve ridden more than 4,500 km this year so far. 180 hours spent pedaling, 47,000 metres climbed. I’m on track to ride double the distance (3,000 km) I rode in the whole of 2014.
Almost all of that has been done on public roads, and the vast majority of it at peak hour. LOL, Canberra peak hour, but still.
I’m incredibly thankful that I’ve made it this far without serious incident, a fact that I put down to a combination of things:
- skill at handling my bike and staying out of trouble
- conservative riding and decision-making in traffic; it’s not worth taking risks unless it’s a Strava segment. KIDDING.
- riding familiar routes and knowing where the black spots are
- look-everywhere, trust-no-one watchfulness, and of course
- good luck, because sometimes – for whatever reason – I do a bad thing and get away with it.
Even with all this on my side, there have been scores of near misses involving cars, trucks and buses. They don’t look, or they look and don’t see you, or they look and see you and think there’s room/time, or they look and see you and don’t particularly care. And (very rarely) they look and see you and try to scare you.
But the biggest idiot I encountered this year was another cyclist. Here’s what happened.
I was riding in to work on a very wet morning. It was actually raining properly, so my shoes were soaked, my bike was wet and my eyewear was beaded over with rain. Visibility was poor, traction was poor, braking was poor. There’s a downhill, left hand turn on my route that is somewhat off camber. I take this turn carefully even in the dry. Enter wide, cut the corner, exit wide. Anyway, I was just about to enter this wet, off camber, left hand turn when another cyclist appeared OOFN on the inside – between me and the kerb – forcing me to abandon my intended line, brake and give way. Since he couldn’t actually execute the turn at that speed, from the inside, on a wet road with wet brakes, he crashed right in front of me, ending up in the car lane. For a split second I stared at this unfolding mess and (because you tend to go where you’re looking) almost rode over him myself. But I didn’t. I pulled up and checked that he was okay. He was okay.
Winter drags on and my goodness, it has been a long and particularly cold one this year. We’ve had very sub-zero starts, brutal winds from every direction, damp soupy fog that lasted most of the day, and plain old soaking rain. It was dark when I got up and dark when I left work to come home. So cold. So dark.
But spring will soon be here. There are buds on some trees, the wattle (Australia’s most optimistic plant) is flowering and all of a sudden, people are starting to talk about magpies.
Magpies, ffs. Here’s my advice on magpies. They may like touching you but they really, really hate it when you try to touch them. So here’s what to do. When you hear or see a bird coming, crouch down low over the handlebars and when it’s super close pop right up as if you want to headbutt the poor thing. Alternatively, try to reach up and grab it. This truly freaks them out. They are not down for reciprocation.
Or, I dunno, try this.
A couple of springs ago my commute took me through the strike zone of a magpie. Now, I have a thing for birds of all kinds, so I decided I’d make this bird an offering to try to win its favour. I left home with a piece of raw sausage wrapped in a piece of plastic wrap. When I reached magpie ground zero it started swooping me, so I pulled over (and this really made the bird mad), stopped and started TALKING to this now-very-pissed-off magpie, ineffectually trying to offer it some sausage. The poor bird’s reaction can best be described as ‘The hell is this, asshole?’ but there wasn’t a whole lot it could do except sit on the ground glaring at me. Anyway, not surprisingly, it didn’t trust me on the meat and I didn’t want to take raw sausage to work so I ended up chucking it at the magpie, which continued to death-stare, and took off. And guess what?
It swooped me, that stinking bag of feathers.
But guess what? Since then, no more magpie attacks, pretty much anywhere. So my theory is that the magpie talked and that I am now in some magpie witness protection racket.*
Please don’t put cable ties on your helmet. You look like a damn fool 100% of the time and (since the bird still gets within 20 cm of your head) removes basically 0% of the drama and distraction.
Also THE EYES DON’T WORK!
*Since I wrote that part, two magpie attacks 😦 But they were pretty soft core. One of them didn’t make contact at all and the other put its feet on my left shoulder three times and squawked in my ear. It was kind of sweet.
Anyway. Just over two weeks to the big event! Road tripping there with the family and can’t wait. All going well (or not going well I guess) my next report will be a race report 🙂