Tuesday, 9 October 2012

As Easy as Riding a Bike...

The other day I decided to do something I haven't done in 4 years: go for a bike ride. The pour mountain bike, inherited from my father, has been sitting in my room collecting dust and, like most of us, showing signs of aging with it's rusty joints and sagging tires. However, a little air, a little cooking oil, and a little bath and the mountain bike was ready to take to the hilly streets.

Despite the immediate incline out of my driveway, the basic mechanics of cycling it don't go away but leg muscles seem to have a shorter-term memory. Nonetheless, I also remembered that I like cycling because it is a great physical activity that one can do sitting down. I had stopped riding for so many years because for many years, bicycles were my means of transportation. I had thus lost the love of the activity and instead looked at it as a reliable way of getting around but with a backpack weighted down in groceries, school supplies, or bottles of wine.

Come to think of it, it hasn't been 4 years since I've been on a bicycle. Due to the aforementioned reliance on bicycles, I occasionally rent bikes while traveling. It is a great, leisurely way to explore a new area. Reflecting on this, here are my Top 5 adventure destinations on bicycle:

5) Amsterdam - With all the confidence I have from surviving the chaotic streets of Cairo, rush hour in Amsterdam scares the hell out of me. Bicycles are the lords of the roads in Amsterdam, and it is truly intimidating to go with the massive flow of cyclists let alone even try to cross the street. It is quite another task to cycle home from after a night of several wines and Abby-strength ales because no matter how many times your friend warns you to watch out for the trolly tracks, your bicycle is sure to find them and your ass the quaintly cobbled streets. A lesson in both humility and the law of the jungle for any avid cyclist.

4) Barossa Valley, Australia - The heart of Australian Wine Country, there are paths and lanes dedicated to bicycle traffic for not only workers but also visitors wishing to visit the wineries on bike. Truly, a civilised way to cycle as one makes their way from cellar door to cellar door, all the while imbibing in a Chardonnay or Shiraz. In 2004, I did just that and was somehow able to hit 10 wineries in a single day. This past February, I didn't visit that many over 3 days so I must have certainly been on a mission to visit so many. Sip, swallow, and cycle is a great way to combine these pasttimes.

3) San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - Clearly, when one is visiting a small town in the middle of the world's driest desert the best thing to do is rent a bicycle for a day. Unlike those pesky air-conditioned buses that take you where they want you to go, cycling through the desert with 5 L of water strapped to your back is the best way to go. Furthermore, when cycling the Quebrada del Diablo ("The Devil's Ravine"), it is best to take a map with you and not rely on the directions of stray dogs. Better yet, don't trust the directions of friends who have every faith that "the dog knows where he's going."

2) Wellington, New Zealand -  High in the hills above New Zealand's windy city is the Te Kopahou Reserve, home to more than 20km of undulating mountain bike trails. If you are to believe Kiwi companions, these trails are "not that difficult." However, if you are to know your Kiwi companions, you would know their habit for gross understatements; "not that difficult" means steep and narrow, so be prepared to spend most of the ride with mud on your face, shirt, shoes, and shorts. Likewise, "just 100m" is a reference to verticle climb, and can actually take up 10km of up-and-down to get there.

1) Tokaj, Hungary - Stretching along the Bodrog river, you cycle past dozens of vineyards and cellars, both large and small, passing through little towns with very long (and hard to pronounce) names. The only challenge is the language. Knowing a little Hungarian (a few words, not a petite person - although that would be helpful too) can be an asset when, say, the chain completely snaps off a long way out from a long-named town and you walk back along a highway you shouldn't have been on to begin with to the nearest cellar door to mime your issue and ask for them to call the rental company. Complimentary cellar tour and Tokaj tastings, however, make it worth all the trouble.

In spite of all these two-wheeled mishaps in their exotic locations, I am happy to say that my return to riding went without instead thereby proving the old adage that riding a bicycle is - well - as easy as riding a bicycle.

No comments:

Post a Comment