One of my goals in life is to not die of heart disease at 51 like my maternal grandmother. On the one hand, she had a lot of other health problems. But so do I, and since my rheumatologist put me on Endep for pain management, I can’t even say, “Well, at least I’m not taking any dodgy first-generation anti-depressants!”
So I am trying to get … fit. Fitter. And it’s going well, thank you for asking! Thanks to my Parkiteer cage, I can cycle to the station 3km from my house and leave my bike locked and covered for the day. And thanks to my Fitbit, I have an incentive to walk 10,000 steps a day, even though that is an arbitrary goal invented by the pedometer industry. I’m basically a pawn of Big Pedometers, but I’m okay with that.
Getting fit(ter) is especially great in spring, with all these bright, sunny, freezing cold mornings. I hopped off the train at North Melbourne today, thinking, “It’s a nice day, I’ll walk from here to the office.”
Then my eye fell on the share bikes.
“They’re just like riding an armchair,” Official Potato Moya told me a couple of years ago. I didn’t know if that was good or bad, but every single bike in that pod had a helmet.
It was a sign.
To rent a share bike you press some numbers on a touchscreen (more responsive than the average myki top-up station, you’ll be pleased to hear), then insert your credit card and get a code. Stephanie will approve of the fact that you can choose between a print-out of the code, or a display on the screen.
Once you have your code, you have five minutes to select from any of the available bikes. Enter the code on a wee three-number pad on the bike dock (to the left of the bike), and your bike will be released. (I had to wiggle and lift it to get it out of the dock.)
As I did so, a man came up, watched me for a minute, then helpfully remarked that “They’re meant to be bikes for everyone, but they all look like girls’ bikes.”
Rather than get into a debate about gender and the step-through frame, I said, “Lucky I’m a girl then,” and otherwise ignored him.
You probably won’t be shocked to hear that it’s not much fun working out bike fit when you have a strange man “helpfully” watching. Luckily, the seats and handlebars are easy to adjust, despite a tiny bit of rust around the seat adjustment lever.
Then I was off.
Bike share cycles have only three gears (I’m used to six), and only the third gear was comfortable for riding. Everything about this bike was just a tiny bit off from my own bike, and not especially easy to ride.
And West Melbourne is hilly.
I got off and pushed my bike up to Victoria Street.
When I was finally cycling again, I started to get used to the bike. It had some quirks:
- The pedal … cog? Rotation? Circle thingy? Even at the highest gear, it felt too small. I was capable of more strength, but the bike couldn’t accommodate me.
- The seat was just the tiniest bit askew, and I couldn’t adjust it. But apparently my butt could — I felt it shifting as I rode.
- Gears switcher goes in opposite direction to my own bike, which is something I could get used to, but, you know.
- I think the frame was too small. Or something was off. I am a short woman; I can’t imagine a tall person feeling comfortable on these bikes.
- Seat was so lumpy.
- Tyres badly needed pumping.
In short, I was sadly misled about the armchair-like qualities of these bikes.
But there were some pros!
- The brakes were so great. Responsive, but not too responsive. Maybe my bike needs a service…
- Even needing some more air, the fat, wide tyres meant I barely noticed potholes and uneven surfaces.
- Those $5 7-11 bike helmets are really good. I’m not currently patronising 7-11, but that helmet was more comfortable, and felt more secure, than my $35 helmet.
When I got to a roundabout, something completely unprecedented happened: as I pulled out of it, a man on a motorbike came alongside me and said, “Well done. It’s not easy, that one.”
And I said, “Thanks!” because that is a horrible roundabout from any direction, and I was quite glad I didn’t die or cause an accident.
On the other hand, I used to go through that roundabout regularly, and didn’t die or cause any accidents then, either, and no one commented on it.
Finally, I found my way to the next docking station on Bourke Street, a couple of blocks from work. “It’s not docked until you see the green light!” warned various stickers.
Well, I didn’t see a green light, but there was a lot of clunking, and then I looked away, and then the bike was well and truly locked. Was it docked? Who knows? I guess I’ll find out when I get a massive credit card bill, or when I’m arrested for bike share bike theft. (Just kidding – I’m going to call at lunchtime and see if they can track my transaction and tell me.) I couldn’t figure out what else to do, and I was going to be late for work.
Would I use the bike share program again? Despite my overall negativity here, I’d actually say … maybe? If there was a parking dock right outside my office, I’d be happy to use the bikes for lunchtime errands in the less hilly bits of the CBD. (Or I’d just glide down the hills, dock the bike and then walk back to the office.)
Unfortunately, the docks aren’t really all that convenient for these purposes. But the CBD, where the traffic you’re keeping up with is slower, is probably a better place to ride the share bikes.
- Share bikes are easier to check out than ride
- West Melbourne is very hilly
- Men will feel compelled to offer opinions