We all ride, but we all got into riding for different reasons. Marcus Perry’s story is a tantalising tale of a wee nipper… and a wee nip. Don’t try this at home (or school!).
As a kid, like many of my generation I got bikes as birthday or Christmas presents as I grew. I’d ride around the neighbourhood with my brother and friends. I loved the freedom. When I was fourteen I was living in Canada, and my parents sent me to a fairly low-rent private school in the next town. Mum would give me $8 per week for the intercity bus for the 20km trip each way. I dutifully took the bus, and would chat with other students on the way.
Then one day, my mother suggested that if I rode my bike to school I could keep the $8. Well, I was fourteen many many years ago when $8 was a princely sum for a teenager. I leapt at the opportunity.
Riding those roads back in the day was pretty rare and not really very safe… so Mum bought me a fluoro orange flag on a pole for the bike. (I guess since she had four of us kids, she could maybe afford to lose one).
Sure enough, as long as the roads were snow-free, I’d get on my bike early and trudge off to school. That got me noticed, since I had the only bike locked in the sad-looking bike racks. All the other kids either walked or were driven to school.
One day, one of the older boys mentioned that they could buy whiskey for $5 a bottle (this was many, many years ago, remember) plus a $1 handling fee. What a bargain – I’d still have money left over from my bus money! Being fourteen and wanting to fit in with the older boys, I would buy a bottle each week, and Friday lunchtimes I’d sit under a tree with a few friends and we’d surreptitiously pass the bottle around. We’d then show up late for French or Math class after lunch, with the afternoons being a bit of a blur.
Eventually, the snow would arrive… and I’d be back to riding the bus with the other sober kids.
Still, I was pretty bike-fit in the on season. One year, some bright spark decided to have a bike-athon to raise money for the school. A century ride was the maximum distance, 4 laps of 40km each. I had no drink bottle, no cycle shorts or jersey, and of course no helmet. But I had the legs for it and I was the only kid to finish the whole 160km. Each lap, I’d stop at the only aid station, have a sandwich and a huge drink of water, and head off for another lap. I don’t remember how long it took, other than ‘all day’. I was a wee bit puffed by the end, to say the least. My sponsors grudgingly handed over much more money than they thought they’d have to.
At sixteen, I got a car… and so the bike languished in the garage. But when I was around thirty, a friend talked me into a triathlon and that was the beginning of some serious riding again – and my ever-growing bike collection.
I have twelve bikes so far, and I ride most of them. I ride virtually every day, come rain or shine. I’ve moved to a house about a half-hour ride from the ferry to work. While cycle commuting in Auckland isn’t ideal, it’s getting better with time and the Skypath looks increasingly like a reality.
I really love my riding. Riding my cruiser bike down to the beach for a summertime ice cream; cycle or tri-training with buddies; and especially my daily stress-relieving cycle commute. It’s all awesome. And it all started with riding for whiskey money. Thankfully, cycling is my addiction these days, not whiskey. (In fact, these days I can barely be in the same room as whiskey.)
While of course I don’t condone under-age drinking, I’m glad my mother dangled that $8 carrot in front of me to get me riding. Without that enticement, I’d be one of the clones sitting on the motorway each morning, wondering where it all went wrong. In the end, those $8 encouragements, no matter what I spent them on, led to a lifelong love of cycling and – surprisingly perhaps – a responsible attitude towards drinking. Maybe it’s not the best way to encourage cycling, but it did work for me.
— Marcus Perry
Got a story about why you ride, where you ride, or what you ride? Drop us a line – we’d love to hear!