An art â€“ you would have thought – as distanced from me as are crayoned scrawls to Monet. Recent history shows me on medication more often than on the bike, and frequent trips to the doctors, the hospital and the shrubbery do little to detract from this picture.
However, if at first you donâ€™t succeed, merely redefine your success criteria. In this case rather than falling off at speed, Iâ€™ve seamlessly transplanted my skills to falling off more slowly. Remember my street riding experience being frustrated by an inability to enter the world of string and wires? A world where gravity is optional and graceful slow speed exits from high places end with the merest waft of a landing rear tyre. Not my world, Iâ€™m barely even a jealous orbiting moon.
Oh I can slam dunk a few bunnyhops before the inevitable pinchflat. Iâ€™ve been known to ride slowly off walls although heard is probably a better adjective. Itâ€™s like an aerobatic stall turn without the turn as my nose, navigating a heading due south, plunges groundwards to land at expensive dentistry. Saved only so many times by big forks and the power of chance â€“ it was time to shape up or, more likely, give up.
Good advice is something I find easy to ignore but in this case, the simple instruction to start small and work up made perfect sense. Although Iâ€™ve generally been a start small and work down kind of guy until now. The base of many gravitationally illegal moves is centred around balance, but since my inner ear only talks to my other balance centres through lawyers, Iâ€™ve favoured gyroscopic effect over stationary magic.
And yet the simplest balancing skill is the track stand; where your bike remains almost motionless at zero miles per hour. Youâ€™ve probably seen stationary bike couriers supping coffee and rolling fags while their bike sits under them like a favourite armchair. If you noticed a bloke rolling randomly forward and backward, grabbing first brakes then a legful of crank before falling into the gutter, then that was me. Thanks for your sardonic applause.
First lesson, no brakes. Roll to a stop using a slope to still momentum and then engage 23rd century anti-grav. If that isnâ€™t available, shove front wheel one way and hips (they mean arse, come on be honest here, itâ€™s a big counterbalancing body part and should be used appropriately) the other. Rock gently forward and back on the pedals and marvel at staying level rather than crashing to ground level.
Obviously it took me a while. Well about 30 years since riding first entered my life but concentrating so hard on a monster 45 second trackstand, I didnâ€™t notice a dog walking couple in awe of my skills. Until he uttered from about two feet away â€œI wonder how he does that“. I was by this time chewing berries in the verge as my trials status came to an unplanned and abrupt end. They wandered away looking over their shoulder, proud to have been present at the inaugural â€œfakie track stand to holly bush, extreme swearing to finish“
Flushed with success, a flowing coasting manual followed which promptly dumped me on my counterbalancing body part. Thatâ€™s the problem with gravity, it waits for a moment of boastful overconfidence and hurls you onto your arse.
Life mirroring art? Life mirroring gravity more like.