American Cycle

Gareth has decided that he prefers to remain an enigma, so I'm afraid it's back to verbose ol' me again!

My gut was sore from laughing at his entry; it took him all of twenty seconds to tap out yet he'd managed to distill seven years of public babbling and a lifetime of lard-related angst.

I'd been feeling self-conscious as it is lately, doing press for the book and sometimes being struck mute mid-interview thinking, What a ridiculous thing, to spend so much time going on about the size of ones arse.

But I'll keep on anyway, because I've been meaning to tell you about what was quite possibly The Greatest Day of My Life. Woohoo!

(Warning: I'm really knackered therefore beware of rambling and excess exclamation!)

You may recall my road cycling debut of mid-October – tears and trembling and brown underpants. It was a crash course of sorts, because the following week we were off to New York and I'd booked us on a cycling tour.

At first it seemed like a crafty way of disposing of Gareth for a few hours so I could do some shopping, but then I decided I wanted in, too. Sure I have no peripheral vision and I cannae hand signal but I've done twenty minutes on a Scottish country road… LET THE MUPPET TAKE MANHATTAN!

We assembled at a bike shop near Union Square – me and Gareth, three chicks from Kansas and a Melbourne lad with wholesome soap star looks. The two tour guides helped us chose a bike. I'd hoped they'd all be pretty pink ones with baskets on the front, but it was a random tangle of scary Sporty Ones. Where was the BELL? How would I cry for help?! My beast had a terrifying 21" frame with a really high crossbar. I called it the Crotch Masher 2000.

There were two guides. They were former couriers, with that lean sculpted-calf appearance that, if a pathetic amateur, might leave you intimidated and tugging at your husband's sleeve, "If you ride off on me, I'll KILL YOU!"

We were told to keep in line behind the front guide and he'd make hand signals telling us when to go or stop or slow down. Nae bother. As we set off I kept my eyes glued to the guide in front and totally blocked out the fact I was in New York otherwise I would have vomited. I couldn't look anywhere but straight ahead and I couldn't change gears because they were twist grip gears and I never knew there was another kind of gear!?

But after five or ten minutes I calmed down. I looked up at a street sign and it said 5th Avenue and I thought Hee hee heeee I'm riding down 5th Avenue! Then a bus whooshed up beside me and I could feel my ribs rattle. The adrenaline kicked in and I spent the next five hours in a state of joy and delirium!

Some highlights:

  • Brush with death in the West Village! As we approached an intersection I caught sight of a pet shop with a windowful of tiny yapping dogs. "GARETH, LOOK AT THE DOGS!" I yelled and sailed on towards them, at the same time Gareth yelled, "SHAUNA, LOOK AT THE TRUCK!" Luckily the truck had good brakes and the information is now branded on my brain: Americans drive on the right.
  • Bruising my lady parts every time I dismounted gigantic bicycle to take another squinty Holding Camera At Arms Length Shot
    Squint
  • Bruising lady parts due to inability to ride in anything other than a straight line therefore barreling through every pothole in the Meatpacking District
  • Powering along the Hudson River Greenway – sweet merciful taxi-less bus-less cycle path!
  • WALL STREET!
    Wall
  • Riding across the Brooklyn Bridge as the sun was setting and laughing in deranged manner, I can't belieeeeeve I'm on the Brooklyn Briiiiiidge on a biiiiike!
  • Dismounting on Bridge then looking back to see the skyline lit up and falling in love with New York for the 457th time that week
    Brooklyn
  • Zooming past the Supreme Court building and making the DUN DUN! noise from Law and Order
  • Weaving in and out of traffic in Chinatown, teeth chattering in terror, completely overwhelmed by all the crazy honking and colours and chickens but loving it!
  • Scoffing dumplings and sesame pancakes at a nice hole-in-the-wall type of place
  • Riding down a grotty little street that could have been anywhere in the world then looking up to see the Empire State glowing in the distance!

So this happened two months ago and only now can I talk about it without getting teary and/or giggling hysterically. I know people ride bikes in cities all the time; my Amazing Adventures may be your tedious commute. But I had never felt so deliriously happy in all my life…

(even during the last half hour of the tour, when the guide that was supposed to stay at the back of the group drifted forward, leaving me and the Old Lady of Kansas to swear and scream and dither when the lights went amber, as to whether to stop and get left behind or go forth and pedal to our deaths)

… I suppose on some cheesy level it was a bit of a Wow I used to be welded to the couch now look at me moment but more it was so deliciously surreal to see places that you've only known from the telly, while on a bicycle, when you used to ride over sheep poo in Australia. It just makes my mind explode sometimes, life and all its possibilities. Now I wish I could go back to every city I've ever visited and see it again from a two-wheeled perspective.

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30 thoughts on “American Cycle

  1. wow Shauna that sounds like a lovely adventure! And the way you describe it, it made me feel as though I was sitting on your handlebars! Things do look different when you look at them from a different point of view or a different means of transportation! The photos are gorgeous too, you look so happy and pretty! :)

  2. That bike tour sounds great. Go on you for having the guts to give it a go! (that is probably an aussie saying. She is BRAVE, people!).

    Inspiring as always DG!

    Merry Christmas to you and Dr G

  3. That sounds like an amazing way to see NYC – not sure I’d be brave enough to ride their streets on a bike though!

    And merry holidays :)

  4. Man, that is awesome! I’ve yet to travel the streets of New York (and remember it). That sounds like the coolest way to do it. I am jealous!

  5. Shauna,

    You go girl. Great pics. Love the helmet. It’s you. Biking is my favorite way to travel. I even bike to work. Freaks out my co-workers when I show up on the bike when it’s in the 20′s (F not C).

  6. “Then a bus whooshed up beside me and I could feel my ribs rattle”

    I’m STILL laughing at that one!!

    Seriously Shauna, I could feel the adrenaline and excitement of every word. I ‘get’ this post. Remember when I ditched my car and rode everywhere instead (in beckschallenge days). It was this extraordinary newfound freedom.

    I miss that.

    Thank you for sharing this post. I loved it.

  7. Woooh! That sounds a fab day. Good on you for not letting Dr G go on his own. I’m glad I’m not the only person who hums TV/film themes in (in)appropriate moments – I used to do the James Bond theme while skiing but the Law and Order one rocks.

  8. Wonderful post, Shauna. I have driven a car in NYC and it took my husband fifteen minutes to prise my fingers off the steering wheel when we got to our hotel ‘cos I was so stressed! Maybe a bike would have been more relaxing (!)

  9. Have to admit- I prefer bikes on roads with a bit less traffic. For spaces that crowded, walking is more comfortable. But kudos to you for doing it!

  10. I can’t even imagine… the bikeriding or NYC! Never been to NYC and my ass hasn’t been on a real bike in 10 years. :x That was really inspiring! :)

  11. Ah, my new hometown through different eyes. Even though I’ve lived here a number of years, my heart still pounds when I see things like the Brooklyn Bridge, the NY Supreme Court building, etc. It’s very cool that you did it on a bike, though. Come back and see us!

  12. Have I told you lately how hilarious and talented you are? Great writing. And riding a bike in NYC takes a lot of courage. NYC is known for its crazy, angst-filled drivers. Even walking on the sidewalk is a bit of a risk. Good for you taking on another challenge and mastering it beautifully.

  13. i can so see you telling, gareth to look at the dogs and almost being hit by a truck…

    hey if you can tackle the roads of NYC then the wee streets of Fife will be a piece of cake, and you don’t have to worry about the cars being on the wrong side of the road!

  14. i can so see you telling, gareth to look at the dogs and almost being hit by a truck…

    hey if you can tackle the roads of NYC then the wee streets of Fife will be a piece of cake, and you don’t have to worry about the cars being on the wrong side of the road!

  15. Shauna,
    What a great adventure! I can’t imagine biking in NY. I bike all around Portland, OR and one of my favorite days of the year is the “bridge pedal” when they close all 12 of Portland’s bridges to cars and the bikes take over. Nothing quite riding down the freeway on your bicycle!

  16. I’m so glad you enjoyed cycling in NYC. I commute from Brooklyn to the Law and Order part of Manhattan. The view from the Brooklyn Bridge is the only thing that makes me proud to be a human being.

    You have to be crazy to ride a bike in NYC, but if you happen to be crazy…

    Deb

  17. Oh, I am laughing so hard about the DUN DUN noise! What a fantastic adventure you had, was it really FIVE HOURS on a bike? Wow!

    I know what you mean about seeing the famous places from television. I’ll never forget when I first got my driver’s license and drove past the American Furniture Warehouse in Denver. Not that it’s a landmark of course! But it was a place I saw on local commercials all the time, and I swear I was SO excited when I saw the building. “Look! There it is!” A complete tourist, even in my own country.

    I think the most significant was seeing the White House for real, and just like the Empire State Building you’re just driving along some grotty little street and all of a sudden, there it is!

    Hey, that should be your next trip…

  18. Hi,
    Love your blog.
    What bike touring company did you go with? I may want to try it myself.
    Have a great holiday, Penny

  19. I was wondering if you were ever going to write about this. I note in your picture that you are probably wearing the very same flowery helmet I wore when I did my bike the big apple tour a week or so before you!

  20. Shauna, we’re off to NY in a few weeks – any chance you can remember the name or the company that did the bike tour? It sounds brilliant and I’d love to give it a – huffing & puffing – go. Or would I need to be superfit to survive (i.e. are there many hills?)!!

    Ta

    Diane

  21. Diane, you didn’t leave an email address so hope you see this. It was Bike the Big Apple and there were hardly any hills at all :)