The Spirituality of Riding

Andrew Prior writes...

20180326-appbikeI can see why bikes work for me. As a child, any socialisation meant walking the two miles to my cousins' farm. A couple of times, I persuaded a parent to deliver me to the town swimming pool, and I walked the six hot miles home at the end of the afternoon. The Christmas present of Cousin Bill's old Colton Palmer and Preston bicycle was freedom on two wheels! The boy whose life was developing around the metaphor of journeying, was all set.

Transport was a problem in Adelaide as a student; I lived some 10 kilometres from where I studied, and the buses were less than helpful. A bike was a tenth the price of a Mini Moke. The new machine had gears, and I discovered that it was a fine way to explore the Adelaide Hills.

At the end of my first year, I went fruit picking; Ag. Science students had to do on-farm experience each holidays, and this seemed a good beginning. My Dad delivered me, and the bike, to a fruit block near Moorook. It was brutal work, and as we got faster, we were paid less per bucket of peaches! At the end of the first week or two, it began to rain, and we were laid off, and told to come back when it stopped raining.  I decided to quit. How hard could it be to ride back to Adelaide?

It turns out that even on a warm day, light drizzle makes a body very cold. A few miles down the road, I hit the wall badly, and have never felt so ill. The kindly woman at the Lowbanks service station made me a huge plate of bacon and eggs, and well restored, I bought food at Waikerie, and rode the hundred miles back to the Prior Family Base at Nanna and Grandpop's.

I was hooked, and spent every free weekend and holidays for the remaining three years of university, riding all over South Australia, and well into NSW and Victoria.

Initially, some of this was about young male bravado. I used to leave college early, ride up Greenhill Road each morning, and over Mount Lofty, and then race the rush hour traffic down the freeway.  My record, in free flowing traffic, stood at 24 overtakes between Eagle on the Hill and the Toll Gate. One damp morning I entered the Devil's Elbow at my usual 30kph, careless of the damp surface, and accidentally executed a perfect two wheel slide through the corner, riding on as though it was all part of the plan! And a few months later, I had a narrow escape from dehydration as I rode the Hay Plain on far too hot a summer's day. Along with the sheer physical joy of life, I was discovering my absolute frailty, and that I was a very contingent being.

I was also finding that the contemplative zone I had known as a runner, and while bushwalking, and which follows a tractor for the hours, and even days, around a big paddock, was somehow magnified on a bike.

Leaving the green machine behind when I went up to the sandy desert, was the hardest thing I had done.

Thirty-one years later, it occurred to me that I was working in a job where no one cared much about what time I arrived, or what I wore, as long as I did the work. As my daughter said of this place, noone would mind if you worked with a cat on your head.  So I bought a bike.... Read the rest at One Man's Web.

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