When I first began serious long distance cycling, some 25 years ago, I would often turn up at my parents’ place after a long ride. Each time, my father would wax forth about the bicycle he left behind in the Netherlands when he emigrated to Australia in the late 1950s. He had bought it – a Rudge with metric dimensions – ten years before he left and he told me about its gearing, the oil bath for the chain, the long rides he had taken on it. When he emigrated, he gave it to his brother, and claimed – every time – that his brother was still riding it. Being a skeptical sort, especially with tall stories, I was not persuaded. Who would still ride a bicycle 50, even 60, years old? I also wondered why he never rode much in Australia.
So I was stunned when one of my cousins in the Netherlands told me he still has the Rudge and that he still rides it. His father – the uncle to whom my father first gave the bicycle – had given it to him. And just to prove that the Rudge is a myth no longer:
Note the lever-brake system, the drum brakes, and the locking device.
Having arrived in that rather unique corner of the world in Oberlausitz, and having jumped on the bike as soon as possible for a longish ride, I encountered the German approach to snow clearing. A little over a week ago about half a metre of snow fell, much of it still on the ground:
It gets better:
I was told the real ‘city’ was hereabouts, so I set off on my bike to find Nineveh in the drizzle and mists of an early East German spring. I passed through dank and dangerous forests:
Past mist-enshrouded fields:
To find the great and bustling city:
For the skeptical …
Satisfied that the inhabitants had indeed repented of their sins, I returned home:
The village of Herrnhut, close by the Czech and Polish borders …
… is a damned good place to be, even if getting there entailed riding bicycles along icy roads by snowy fields and hills. But the locals are a friendly bunch, speaking German, Czech and (if over 30) some Russian.
Many good things may be said about Christian communism, not least its ability to provide ridiculously cheap accommodation. But given that Herrnhut is the spiritual home of the worldwide Unitas Fratrum (Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine), they have a knack of finding any flag in their collection.
In honour of our stay here, of course.
Some may have been following the brouhaha after Shane Warne – erstwhile cricketing great, frenetic twitterer and lately seducer of Liz Hurley – tried to run down a cyclist. Writes Bridie O’Donnell, a cycling champ:
Of course, if more than half a million people follow you on Twitter, it’s because they like you, admire you or are enthralled to hear what whimsical and acerbic sound-bytes emanate from your intriguing mind … It’s important to remember that while Warne made a career out of being a spin bowler, he was just as famous for his sledging, his hair, his recidivist womanising and poor nutritional choices. He can be proud of his contribution to cricket’s image as a sport of overweight, overpaid blokes who drink a lot.
One question you ask when you get home after being away for a long while is, ‘how did all this shit get here?’
‘Oh yeah, that’s my shit’, soon follows.
Out the back I had three crap bicycles, used them to ride to the beach, down the hill and up again (it’s fucking steep), maybe to the shops or wherever. Bicycles to leave out the back unlocked, so you can jump on them any time. But three? The result of an ingrained habit of collecting stuff from the ‘council cleanups’ every three months. That is, the stuff other people don’t want. All the bookshelves are made this material, since the wood is often good quality. But the bicycles: my principle is never to buy a part. I always look for someone’s else’s unwanted spare parts. All the same, all I need is one bike, so today I tinkered a bit and then decided to put all the best bits together into one bike – helped with a few old cans of graffiti spray. The result:
Wouldn’t want to ride to Perf on it, but it’ll get me to the beach and back.
An ideal place in the world would have stunningly hot summers by a beach like Newcastle in Oz and fucking cold winters like the one under way over in Denmark and northern Europe in general.