The art of mobile meditations
What got me back on a saddle, rising petrol prices and environmental aspirations aside, was a far more direct request from a friend to shake the growing bloated ego I was nursing. He was too kind to be as blunt, yet the message was clear: do something to rekindle your senses of living in the city of my dreams, Cape Town.
And so it started. Not with dreams of joining a racing team, slipping into bright pink tights or failing year-after-year the Tour de France doping tests, as they do. Car keys in one hand, busy schedule in the other, I made an unannounced visit to a warehouse type sport store to choose a bicycle. As I could not tell the difference between the one the postman uses to deliver mail and the one Contador chooses to punish the hills, I went for a silver one. Dark silver. It matched most of my outfits, and still does.
Dismantled and packaged in the back of my hatchback, I faced the dreadful task of reassembling it back home. My dad’s distressed stare at a piece of wobbly sticks that was the result of a school year’s effort in woodwork class, loosely representing a side-table, has become the watermark for all things technical and manual in my life. Putting two wheels back into a frame, with gears, brakes and seat in their right place, became the home stretch for my re-emerging DIY self confidence. I was humming “Chariots of Fire’ by the time I used my new pump to inflate the brand new wheels.
Yet despite early victories, and one cycle on that tarred road below Table Mountain (with at least one swirl into a picnic spot to test the off-road features), it was not until a whole year passed when I realized the true purpose of the silver-horse that largely remained locked in front of my used-every-day hatchback.
It became the symbol of my freedom. A change of career, resetting my pace, mad petrol prices, expensive parking and the efforts of Cape Town’s MyCiti network conspired. Awoken from a lazy sense of self-obsession, I found myself back on the bicycle, more determined and slightly desperate for that famous moment of deep realization of life’s purpose.
Too much pressure for a bike, I realised. After all, it is still not a confession booth. In stead, I took comfort in the fact that by using it on the new cycle lanes, occasionally integrating my journey with a MyCiti bus, and meeting friends and business partners for drinks or meetings, I claimed what was rightfully mine already: Infrastructure paid for by my taxes (don’t we adore that line?), while sensing beauty in a city where I choose to live (for a list of reasons).
And while I still stare in semi-comatose hope that the hills of Green Point will flatten before I ascend onto them, and occasionally forget my helmet on the bus, and arrive with sweaty armpits at a meeting, I have learned some valuable lessons in my lone cycling. One of them, the act of respecting the right of someone to share your path, no matter the size of the steel that surrounds them or the number of people that share your space.
Alone on a bicycle in the busy streets of a tiny city like ours, you still negotiate for your spot in the race. You can only pray that everyone else also play a fair game. An act that brings you that much closer to that moment that is often reached only in confession booths.