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June 2017

200 years in the making



A couple of weeks ago I went for a quick road ride to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the invention of the bicycle.

In 1815 the eruption of Tambora created an ash cloud that lowered global temperatures by as much as 3 degrees. Summer didn’t happen in Europe, crops failed, and horses became part of the menu rather than a means of transport. German inventor Baron Karl von Drais needed some way of getting around, and may have been influenced by the catastrophe when he came up with his Laufmachine (running machine) to replace his horse.

On 12 June 1817 von Drais mounted his wooden beast and rode it on a return journey of 9 miles, covering the distance in about a quarter of the time it would take a pedestrian. His device was barely a bike, but it did have two wheels in line and became popular for both riders fairly quickly after that, lawmakers. The wooden wheels were hard to manage on rutted roads, and pedestrians didn’t like sharing footpaths with riders.

By 1820 Laufmaschines were outlawed in major cities from Paris to Calcutta, which shows that there were people everywhere who wanted to ride bikes, and there were people who didn’t like bike riders as soon as they became a thing.

Bike riding languished for half a century, and then became popular again through a series of improvements that made bicycles the most efficient means of transport ever created.

Inventions made to improve bikes have improved life generally.

Inflatable rubber tyres. Ball bearings. Roller chains. Tension spoked wheels. All great ideas developed to make bike riding better.

And since last century, Nzo Dobies.



Solitude and otherwise



Graeme and I headed into the woods on Monday, with a vague plan: ride some jungle trails, and beat the rain back to civilisation.

The first stop was on the aptly named Pipeline Road. There is spring water there on tap, and I can’t see the point of carting water on my back until I am thirsty, which is about the time I get to the spigot. It is right next to the mid-forest bus stop, where people wait in a queue for diesel assisted climbing.

There sat Rusty, an old riding mate we don’t get to see very often. He was easily shamed into riding up the hill with us.

Tuhoto Ariki was in perfect condition. Rusty had never ridden the trail, so we rode it with the added pleasure of accompanying a person experiencing its splendours for the first time.

We decided to go and do Kung Fu. Three young fellas were waiting at the trailhead for one of them to finish checking his Tinder or Snapchat his Squeezie, or whatever. They looked faster than me so we gave them a headstart.

I met them again mid-trail, which is a long walk from anywhere if you burp the air out of your tubeless tyre. One of the young fellas asked me if I had a pump, sounding like somebody who was facing a long walk, and had already asked the same question of two other guys. Neither of whom had pumps. Young fellas don’t carry pumps, but I do. And a chain tool, which I have carried religiously since I walked a long way when I was just about through with being a young fella myself. He was visibly delighted when I produced a functioning inflation device from my backpack, and didn’t even complain when it took about 100 strokes to fill his tyre. The pump is small, but it works, eventually.

Following the young fellas at a distance, and on a different schedule, I emerged to find my colleagues chatting to a gang of Amazon-like women. They were en route to the lower Walrus. We dived in ahead of them, and got to experience the thing twice.

Once in person, and again as listeners. We stood next to Lake Rotokakahi and followed the Amazons' progress as they commented on the various trail features loudly enough for each other, and anybody else within about half a kilometre, to hear.

Sometimes the forest is a place of solitude. On a long weekend, not so much. Either is awesome.


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