27 Jun 2020

Just Stay In And Do It

As I sit typing this in the People’s Democratic Republic of Victoria, the word has come down to us mere mortals from Chairman Dan that some isolation restrictions have been relaxed.

Why? Have we found a cure for the coronavirus? No. Is there a vaccine for it? No. Has it gone away all by itself? No it hasn’t. It’s still there lurking in the un-sanitised shadows, just waiting for someone to cough on you, and then Whammo. It’s gotcha.

All that’s happened is that people and the media have got sick of it. That’s ‘of’ it, not ‘from’ it, something for which I personally feel very grateful. I’m not sick of it at all. If staying alive means staying home and not mingling with unknown Covid Carriers, then I’m all for it. I’m more than happy to be home with my gf and Charlie the Wonder Whippet, churning out stuff like this!


But that’s more than enough of the social commentary. I’ve had a gutful of weasel worded ads with simpering presenters telling me ‘We’re all in this together…’ and ‘We’re there for you…’ Are we? Really? I don’t think so. Instead, for the next few minutes, let’s talk about happier things to do than add to the mountain of coronavirus op. ed. pieces.

It should come as no surprise that I haven’t done half of the things I had planned on doing during the lockdown. I haven’t learnt a new language, haven’t learnt to play a new instrument, haven’t finished the thousand or so pages of Haruki Murakami’s novel 1Q84, Books 1, 2 or 3 (I’m guessing that less than 0.1% of the people who bought it have actually read it).

It’s a book to be seen to own, not to actually have read. A bit like James Joyce’s Ulysses but better written. I got halfway through Book 1, then couldn’t remember a single thing about what I had just read, so put it down promising myself I’d finish it someday. But as John Fogerty sings, Someday Never Comes!

“You can’t just laze around doing nothing all day,’ says She Who Must Be Obeyed, who is working from home and loving it. “You’ve got to get some exercise.” Hmm. Need exercise – how about walking the dog? Uh oh – everyone and their dog is out walking the bloody dog. Never seen so many.

In normal times it’s the yummy mummies in designer exercise Lycra, the Scandinavian Urban Assault Vehicle/kiddie stroller, and designer dog (I’m looking at you, Groodles) sitting together at a table in the local cafes, keeping out of my way. Now it’s the hubbies working from home doing the coffee and dog run as well, spread all over the footpath in 1.5 metre circles waiting for their over-priced soy lattes at the hole-in-the-wall coffee shops.

Photo: Logan Weaver, Unsplash

The streets are more crowded than the MCG on Grand Final day. Although not, I suspect, on this season’s Grand Final day!

“I’m missing my regular spin classes at the gym,” I whined, hoping for some sympathy. Not a chance. “Get the wind trainers out of the shed,” she ordered, “and we’ll put them in front of the TV, find something to watch, and we can pedal away for 45 minutes or so and keep fit.”

I had to admit that over Easter we had been taste-testing the various brands of Hot Cross buns – purely for research, of course, and it was a sad day when the supermarkets finally sold out of them for another year – but a happy day for my waistline! The winner? Well, no-one outright.

The ALDI ones had the nicest spicy tasting dough, but were a bit erratic on the raisin count; the Coles ones were quite bland, and had a very low raisin count; the best all round were the Woolies ones that they baked in the store. The packs of nine mini ones had a very satisfying raisin count and a very tasty dough flavour. The best value though were ALDI, being at least a dollar per pack less than the competition.

But I digress.

I found the wind trainers in the shed, brought them out and coaxed the colony of Huntsman spiders living inside them into moving house with the help of the garden hose, but I couldn’t find my bike shoes anywhere.

“When did you last have them?” asked my gf.

“In Adelaide, I think,” I replied. That was a couple of months ago – I couldn’t believe we hadn’t been on the bikes since then. Bike shoes are not something I’d wear if I weren’t riding a bike. They’ve got cleats on the soles that click into the pedals. If you walk around in them they go clippy-clop like Peggy Bundy, from Married, With Children. Not an image I strive for, I must admit!

There was nothing for it but go down to 99 Bikes and buy a new pair, as it’s very uncomfortable, and a bit unsafe, to ride a bike that has cleat pedals, without cleats. They push into the soles of your runners and make your feet slip off as you push hard to accelerate.

Luckily the shop had a nice pair of medium-priced bike shoes. “You’ll need a new set of cleats too,” said the salesman enthusiastically. Oops. I had bought my pedals about 10 years ago, made by a small US company called Crank Brothers. I chose them after much testing of the major brands, but found that none were easier to click in and out of than the Crank Brothers, which made them ideal for suburban riding.

“Have you got a set of Crank Brothers cleats?” I asked hopefully.

“No, sorry, we don’t keep them in stock. I could get them in for you, but it might take a while …” he shrugged his shoulders.

So did I. “I don’t suppose Shimano make some compatible ones, do they?” He smiled sadly and shook his head. I was waiting for him to say ‘Cleats ain’t cleats mate,’ but he wisely abstained. This simple act of riding the bike was taking on a life of its own, and so far taking up a whole day.

“I tell you what,” he said optimistically, “why don’t you get a cheap pair of adjustable Shimano pedals, which come with their own set of cleats, and the whole lot’ll probably cost you less than just the Crank Brothers cleats.”

He was right, too. I hate that!

I fitted the pedals when I got home and set them on the loosest ‘click out’ setting. After all, I wasn’t going to be climbing up the Alp d’Huez or Mont Ventoux again anytime soon. I set up the bikes; we climbed on, clicked in and turned on the TV, ready for the first testing of the concept by watching the midday movie, or whatever it’s called these days.

It was then that we realised a major problem – we couldn’t hear the TV sound above the whirring of the bike gears! Cranking up the TV sound made little difference, and then my gf made a brilliant suggestion. “Why don’t we watch the World Movies on SBS? We’ll find something French, turn the sound down, and just read the subtitles. That should work.”

We tried that, and it worked well. Much cheaper than shelling out a couple of grand for a Zwift compatible Internet connected setup, like one of our friends had done. It lets you watch a video of any major mountain pass climb around the world and feel all the bumps and the gradients. Fun, it’s true, but at the end of the day you’re still just riding a bike.

If this goes on much longer, depending on the movies, we’ll soon have an ‘intimate’ knowledge of bedroom French, and be fit enough to ride up any mountain ‘no hands’!

CX Magazine – June 2020   

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