A guest post by writer and new bike romantic Maria Majsa
On Valentine’s Day this year I didn’t get roses, I got a bike. A handsome, shiny black upright. You might think that a bike isn’t a particularly romantic gift, but I disagree.
Exhibit A: If bicycles aren’t romantic, why do they keep turning up in songs?
I could quote four right now, but my favourite has always been Back to the Old House: “When you cycled by, here began all my dreams.” Even as I write that line, an entire scene unfolds in my head: Suburban street. Pretty girl on a bike, hair flying. Shy lad, doomed to watch her pedal by. Will he ever be able to tell her how much he really likes her?
Absolutely not. This is a Smiths’ song, after all. He never talks to her, and her family moves away and all is lost, except the memory of the vision of her sailing past him in the street. There is a world of bunched-up adolescent urst* in that line. Anyone who has ever been a teenager could relate. And although things get a tad morose after that, you get my drift: the vision on a bike lingers. Bikes have their own romance.
There is something about riding a bike that harks back to simpler times – childhood and adolescence. Maybe it was the first time you felt real freedom. And it was universal – almost everyone had a bike. To be in possession of your own form of transport was liberating and joyful. You could explore, find new places, go further than before.
Of course new experiences don’t necessarily go to plan. That’s the great unknown for you. There’s always the possibility of getting lost, or damaging your bike, or yourself – which segues nicely into my second and third favourite quotes: “Punctured bicycle on a hillside, desolate” [This Charming Man] and “I crashed down on the crossbar and the pain was enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder” [Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before]. Bear with me, I have no idea where I’m going with these, though I’m pretty sure the last one would put paid to any ideas of romance, at least till the bruising had healed.
Exhibit B: It is possible to fall in love with pretty much anyone on a bike ride.
I used to go for rides with a friend who was a fellow Smiths fan. He had a bad stammer and couldn’t pronounce his Rs, but his politics were sound and his taste in music exemplary. On our first ride he verbally unpacked the lyrics of an obscure B-side single by The Smiths as we explored Chiswick. I fell momentarily in love with him and even now, by association, there is something inextricably romantic to me about stammering and bike riding. Especially when combined.
Fast forward a few decades to Exhibit C: The gifted bike.
My husband bought himself a bike a few years ago and started leaving his car at home more often. Pretty soon he was cycling more than driving. Not in a clenched, lycra-wearing kind of way – more of a mooching up the road to a café type thing. Now that I have my bike, I can mooch alongside him. And in a low-key, everyday kind of way, that’s really quite romantic.
*unresolved sexual tension
Back to the Old House The Smiths
This Charming Man The Smiths