I generally love my bike very much. But there are moments when I fleetingly hate it and glare at it murderously. These are generally “parking” moments, when I’m trying to stand it somewhere for a bit, so I can do something else like lock the front door or check Twitter.
We all know that bikes function best – like The Sundance Kid – when they are allowed to move. Forward motion keeps them balanced. But that doesn’t explain those times they seem almost wilfully resistant to being rendered immobile.
Our efforts to keep them still are complicated by several factors. We are rightly reminded by The Velominati not to – ouch! – lean the frame itself against any other objects, or – the horror! – ever put the thing upside down. But it should still be fairly simple; I always try to heed my dad’s (no doubt quietly exasperated) observation that if both your saddle and handlebars are in contact with a wall, not much can go wrong.
And yet it does. The thing stays still until your hands are engaged elsewhere – taking off your helmet, for instance – then it cheekily flips a wheel round 90 degrees and demands catching, like a daring toddler in the playground. Or it waits till you’re looking the other way before creeping forward, away from the thing you rested it on, eventually throwing itself to the ground in clattering slow motion.
The cruellest trick, which my otherwise loyal bike seems to perform regularly, is reversing round a corner: slowly rolling back and tilting, so the front wheel flares out and the whole machine describes an elegant curve backwards, then (fucking) falls over.
We can add to all this woe the sad reality that bicycles, while stationary, are basically traps on wheels, with their pedals at ankle-knocking height and handlebars positioned to catch your hips and your trouser-pockets. Add to that the way they interact when stationary together (basically: a monkey puzzle) and you’ll surely agree that the only possible solution is to ride the damn things.