David Moseley

Do you need a hand?

2014-12-04 13:45

David Moseley

Here’s the thing. Cyclists are generally a friendly bunch. Things might get heated on the road sometimes, while on other occasions some cyclists might let themselves down by ignoring common rules of decency (for example, cycling through stop streets, or striding purposefully into coffee shops with their squished todgers on display through Lycra shorts).

But on the whole, we’re a decent, friendly crew who try to stay out of trouble and just enjoy the freedom of riding a bike

The sense of community amongst cyclists is most evident during events, where it’s common for participants to stop and offer assistance to their stricken comrades.

This year I’ve been helped out of a pickle twice at two separate events, once at the recent Wines2Whales three-day ride when my tyre was slashed by a rock and then again in Swellendam at the Coronation Double Century, when my rear tyre exploded with the finish just 10km away.

On the latter occasion a young cyclist from Velokhaya, an academy that encourages youngsters in marginalised communities to get on the bike rather than dabble in drugs and crime, stopped next to me and quickly assessed the damage.

He handed over his wheel and insisted that I finish the event using it. He took my wheel and somehow plugged my ruptured tyre with an empty cigarette packet that he found on the side of the road. In no time he was riding alongside me again (this time asking if I’d like a push up the last, steep climb. I respectfully declined. Maybe). That’s the spirit.

Help is near(ish)

My regular riding partner (the esteemed columnist Jonathan Ancer) and I also try to ride and race like this. Our philosophy on the road or the mountain is to always offer a helping hand if we spot a fellow cyclist in need.

During the nine-day Old Mutual JoBerg2c mountain bike race this year we never failed to offer an affable “do you need a hand?” to cyclists stranded on the roadside.

The only problem with our strategy is that the extent of our combined technical know-how on and off the bike extends to phoning our friend Chris for help.

If anyone had actually answered “yes” we would have needed a few minutes to first recover from the panic, then get off our bikes and find a phone, then call Chris and ask him what to do with the thingy that’s come off the spiky part that the chain sticks to.

Jonathan and I are the Laurel and Hardy of cycling, which the sweeps who stopped to help us at the Wines2Whales can attest to as they witnessed the two of us crashing our helmets together repeatedly when trying to weigh up the damage to my rapidly deflating tyre. When I eventually break my nose while riding, it will be because Jonathan has head-butted me while trying to “help”.

Vague volunteers

With that in mind, we’re p

robably not the best people to take along on a mountain bike skills clinic for children.

But this is exactly what the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust (CTCTT), the organisers of the Cape Town Cycle Tour and the Coronation Double Century, did a few weeks ago.

They asked for volunteers to show kids in the Buffeljagsrivier community near Swellendam, who were receiving new bikes courtesy of the CTCTT, the basics of mountain biking.

The handover is a great initiative, with the hope that children in the area will take to cycling as a way to stay healthy, enjoy the environment and aim for great things.

Our role was to assist actual knowledgeable coach Rob Vogel from the Pedal Power Association, and make sure the kids didn’t eat all the sweeties in one go. The sweets part was no problem, because I ate them before the kids arrived. The assistant coach part proved more demanding.

All Jonathan and I had to do was help with bike set up (that is, saddle height and so on) and tighten a few loose nuts and bolts on the bikes.

As I looked around after a few minutes I noticed Jonathan fastening bottle cages to the bikes. Most were upside down. The kids were looking at each other, rolling their eyes.

After a short ride a youngster came up to me and asked, “Coach, coach, is it meant to be like this?”. I looked down and someone – no names mentioned, but the next day my bike had been “fixed” in the same way by Jonathan – had placed the front fork and handlebars the wrong way round.

Despite our ineptitude, the kids took to bikes like kids taking to bikes; fearlessly and enthusiastically. By day two of the training course they’d had enough of the basics and insisted on a ride in Swellendam’s Marloth Nature Reserve.

One happy camper, stopping only briefly while charging towards his bike, said to Jonathan, “I missed my bike!” Another taught me how to wheelie.

We might not have taught them much (except for what no to do on a bike), but we certainly learnt how much joy a bike can bring (not to mention the warm and fuzzies of seeing 20 grinning kids bolting about in their new cycling gear). With cycling, it’s all about giving a hand. And that’s what it makes it special.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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