Rachel Wise: Some hills should be left unscaled

By Rachel Wise

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Rachel Wise is a lifestyle-block owner and community newspaper editor. Jacoby Poulain is on maternity leave.
Rachel Wise is a lifestyle-block owner and community newspaper editor. Jacoby Poulain is on maternity leave.

I was sitting in the lounge relaxing with a book when the explosion happened.

It was very loud and it came from the dining room. I looked at my husband in panic, waiting for him to leap up and be manly and save the family. He raised his head, peered towards the dining room and said: "bike tyre". Then he went back to reading the paper.

Of course it was a bike tyre.

What else explodes in one's dining room on a quiet Saturday afternoon?

My husband cycles. I am used to bike wheels in the dining room, bike tools on the coffee table, bike shoes tripping me up in the passage and strange Lycra garments on the bathroom floor.

There are also long, detailed reports of bike rides: Hills, how far, how fast, drifting (or is it drafting?) sprint finishes and ... other stuff.

Most of it makes no sense to me. Bicycles and I have never been on friendly terms.

My first memorable cycling experience was hijacking a neighbour's tricycle as a child. It was one that had a chain, and went fast. That was great fun, going fast down the driveway and sweeping left into the parking area, until, with the neighbour-child on board, I rolled it. The gravel rash healed but the ban on tricycle hijacking still stands.

Later I had a bike of my own and I was promised that when I was competent on it I would be allowed to ride it to school.

After several months of attempting competence, my parents just sighed and said: "All right, ride it to school anyway."

I lived to regret that decision.

There was a hill between my house and my school It was called Butterworth Drive. On the way to school it was a fun hill to freewheel down, but on the way home it started as a gentle slope, progressed to a challenging incline and changed, just metres from the top, into Everest on steroids.

Each day, at the bottom of Butterworth Drive, I would declare it "the day I ride all the way to the top." But each day I'd get to the Everest bit, standing on the pedals, down to a crawl, down to a standstill, pushing with all my might - and no.

All through intermediate school Butterworth Drive tormented me. Then came high school and still no respite. Third form, fourth form. By fifth form I was far too cool to ride a bike. So that was it, I walked.

Until my husband took up cycling a couple or more years ago.

Maybe, I thought, it was time to put the humiliation of Butterworth Drive behind me.

Perhaps I, too, should cycle.

Hubby was delighted. He suggested we take on a fun cycle event coming up that weekend.

He borrowed a road bike for me, and clip-on cycle shoes. Hang on, clip what? Where?

Clip-on cycle shoes fasten your feet to your pedals. Firmly. So that when you go for a test-ride you stop at an intersection, go to put your feet down, and can't, you panic and fall over.

"Unclip your feet before you stop," my husband helpfully instructed me, as he unclipped his feet and stopped. "I can't," I told him. "You'll be fine on the day," said my husband as I fell off once again, in the driveway, when we got home.

By "the day" I had invested in padded cycle shorts and thought I really looked the part, until I fell over as we stood at the start line.

Yes, I had unclipped one foot, my right. Then my bike toppled to the left.

I only fell off twice more on the journey. Once was in a deep, watery ditch halfway up a hill. That was where I found out how absorbent cycle pants are. "Unclip," shouted hubby. "I can't," I shouted back. The second time was after we crossed the finish line.

"Why didn't you unclip? Asked hubby. "I can't," I told him.

So he took my borrowed cycle shoe off my foot and clipped it in the pedal. "Like this" he said and twisted it.

It didn't unclip.

"It's adjusted too tight," he said.

I looked at him.

"I thought you were just whining" he said.

I've given up cycling. Butterworth Drive - you win.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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