Being on a bicycle every day gives you a unique perspective on your city. It’s also referred to as “bicycle vision.” While walking is helpful for taking in the view, it is often too slow for my needs. As a passenger or driver, you miss the new cafe or the interestingly-lit restaurant because car manufacturers seem intent on providing an “immersive experience” which blocks out the environment. Having lived in London and New York and worked in a number of cities in Asia, I find that people make a city come alive. The mix of characters and interactions colour one’s perspective and makes an impression.
Consequently, I am often drawn to unique sights in the city, whether it be faces, fashion, shoes, bicycles. One Monday afternoon in February while returning home from music lessons from the CBD, my kids and I saw a bicyclist in Taylor Square wearing a pink shirt, shorts and beautiful shoes. I didn’t recognise the bicycle nor did I have the time to inquire. In my haste to capture his image, the lights changed and he disappeared quickly.
I posted the photo of “The Mysterious Man” on Instagram and the months passed. And then, on the recent Suits Ride as part of the Sydney Rides Festival this month, I recognised the bicycle. And then I recognised him. I said hello while we were ascending Kent Street and introduced myself. His name is Angus and he rides a Velorbis. I had learned more about his bicycle because of the recent Giro d’Stil at Men’s Fashion Week (Pitti Uomo) in Florence. I wondered what this heavy Danish bicycle was like to ride here in hilly Sydney. I mentioned the photo that I took of him in February and we had a good laugh at my “stalking” abilities.
It was no surprise to find out that Angus is an architect. With his eye for design, he told me about a road trip that he and his friend (and mine) Dr. Steven Fleming took to Wollongong from Newcastle. Why? They were both interested in buying a Pashley bicycle which has a similarly classic design. Unfortunately, the model that they saw had too much plastic (!) and was rejected outright. But he discovered Morgans Bicycles in Alexandria and chose the Velorbis. He liked its classic steel design and its virtual indestructibility. With puncture-resistant tyres, he’s never had a flat in the four years that he’s owned it.
He agreed that it was a heavy bicycle at 18kg and that it took him a few weeks to adjust to the weight. With kids, partner and work, his commute is his primary exercise. In summer, he cycles more slowly to manage the heat to his colleagues consternation. During the Suits Ride, I met him at the bottom of Kent Street Cycleway. Our destination was Observatory Hill and it’s a long gradual ascent. I was on my e-bike because I had a meeting to attend later in the afternoon in Kingsford and I didn’t want to get too sweaty on this beautiful day. We chatted and rode together for awhile and he managed the climb while dressed in a suit.
The interconnectedness of people has struck me before. Eerily, we discovered that we have several friends in common, own several of the same types of bicycles (his are more stylish) and have enjoyed holidays in the same places.
As I meet more people who bicycle in Australia, it is easy to revel in the camaraderie and the companionship that a bicycle lifestyle affords. In the meantime, there are many more who could benefit from a change to a bicycle lifestyle. Consequently, in the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more about people whose lives have changed as a result of their adoption of the bicycle. Please let me know if you have an interesting story to tell. I’d love to feature you on the blog.