Friends who Cycle: Tess

by tillieandcoco

Tillie & Coco are delighted to welcome a guest post from Tess, who recently moved to Canberra with her lovely bicycle.

Does your bike have a name?
Why yes she does, it’s Ruby, Ruby Rose. Not named after the celebrity lipstick lesbian, but because I named her Ruby when I saw her online, and then in person I discovered she had a “tattoo” on her frame that said “Rose”, but she’s red, not pink, so Ruby had to stay.

Bell or horn?
Ruby came with a little bell, but I’m looking to upgrade her to an old-school bell.

Basket or pannier?
Ruby has a wire basket attached at the front, with a wicker basket that you can fit into that. She also has a rear rack, a pannier might come later.

Where do you cycle?
Since I don’t have a car, I cycle to loads of places: the supermarket, work, to a high tea and back the other day. Canberra is getting a bit chilly now, so cycling is getting a little tough with the wind chill factor, but if I can cycle in winter in the Netherlands (and I have), surely I can kick it in Canberra.

What is your favourite pose when stopped at lights?
Left leg up and right on the ground, trying not to fall off.

When and why did you start cycling?
I was moving to Canberra and thought I would need some wheels and since Canberra is so flat, everyone had talked about cycling. Of course I cycled as a kid, but that was a while ago.

Tell us about cycling in Canberra
On first arrival Canberra seems at once cycle friendly – there are obvious cycle ways all over the place, well-publicised cycle maps, and most interestingly, buses with a bike rack on the front.

One day I decided to go on a big adventure to Waramanga, which is about 20 kilometers from my house, for a bird sale to buy a new finch for my bird cage. I’d never been there, but on the basis of the bus route map and the bike route map I figured I could  get the bus out to Woden and then cycle to Waramanga, and get the bus home from there.

I got to the bus and the first challenge was figuring out how to put Ruby on the bike rack. There are some fairly self-explanatory instructions on the rack, but with the driver and a bus load of people watching I was just stumbling around trying to do it as quickly as I could, but not doing very well. The bus driver eventually got down to help: you push the bar down, fold the rack out, put the bike on in a certain direction and then pull a spring loaded clamp like thing over one wheel to hold it in place. Once Ruby was on the rack we were off. Getting Ruby off the rack is much easier now I that I know how it works a bit better!

The ride from Woden to Waramanga was really nice. It’s a pretty suburban area with some pockets of bushland, juxtaposed with a massive highway running down the middle. There are bike paths most of the way along the highway, but in parts I was riding next to the traffic (not as scary as it looked) and the road was very flat. Then I had to turn off into a reserve and cut across to get to the bird sale. Although there are some moments of steep hills that in my state of fitness require me to jump off and walk, it is really nice to ride through some Aussie bushland.

I bought my new bird, and then debated whether to ride back to Woden with the bird in the basket or wait for a bus on a Sunday. I opted for the ride option, and cycled most of the way back via the highway, so it was less bumpy for Akoko, my recently purchased cordon blue finch. We made it back to Woden and when the bus came I thought that it would be much easier to load Ruby on the bike rack, but of course now I have a bird in a box to handle too. Needless to say the driver had to help again, but we got the bus all the way home and I introduced Akoko to Winnie. A good cycle trip all in all.

There are a few things that Canberra hasn’t done very well for cyclists. A lot of the cycle ways are on major roads, which is a little intimidating most of the time. The street lights are shocking, so you have to stick to major roads at night, or risk riding into some unseen pothole or dog. Then of course there is the bogan element of Canberra. I’ve already had people yell abuse at me while I’m riding, and I have heard reports of cyclists being slapped on the butt from a moving car as they drove past. I suppose all cities have their pros and cons, even when it comes to cycling. I am really looking forward to a proper cycle around the lake, so I’ll let you know how that goes if I can brave the Autumn chill.