I was ten when my best friend Steven Baxter Taught me to ride a two-wheeler. Baxter had a twenty inch Malvern Star he’d gotten for Christmas and I thought he was the luckiest bugger alive. I used to watch in awe as he sped up and down the street where we lived. Steven convinced me that like him I could be a star on the Malvern. So my lessons on two wheels began. Good old Baxter would run along behind me holding the seat and barking instructions and encouragement while I sat there shitting myself. And then one day in an act of pure faith my mentor let go of the seat and screamed, ‘ Keep peddling Garner.’ I had the peddling part ok, it was the stopping and turning that was going to be the problem. As the bottom of street came into view I knew I was in trouble. I hit the foot brakes, said a quick prayer and hit the unforgiving asphalt way to hard. Baxter carried me and the bike back up to my place. he left me on the doorstep, told me I could try again tomorrow and left me to face the wrath of my mother.
For years after two wheelers and me were a recipe for disaster. It wasn’t till I was about thirteen that I learnt to stop without falling off. My new best mate Brownie was also a whiz on two wheels. And it was my burning desire to ride like my friend that led to mum and I spending two consecutive Sundays in the casualty department. On the first visit mum was sympathetic. I told her how I’d tried to emulate my friends cornering technique and ended up head first in the roller door of the factory on the corner. On the second visit her motherly concern was gone when I told her the same corner and the same roller door had conspired against me. Rather than words of solace she threatened to,’ Box my ears’ if I got on that bike again. The lump on my head was nowhere near as big as the lump in my ego. I guess my old mum just didn’t realise that somewhere inside me the was a potential road racer, trying to find his way.
I hardly rode a bike again until the Christmas before last when my stepchildren but me a bike. I’d been dropping hints for months and I figured being older and wiser I’d be safe. That Christmas I fell in love again with the notion of being a cyclist. Early in the mornings I’d pedal off down town to my favourite café, grab a coffee, write in my journal and ride home before the morning traffic. I loved those rides but unlike the thirteen year old me, I knew my balance and tremor, meant I had to be really careful on my new machine. I had a few moments when I’d wished I had old Baxter holding onto my seat. And whenever I saw a roller door a chill went done my spine. Each time I went out for a ride I’d feel a bit more nervous and so at Christmas last year I bought myself an adult trike.
My new baby is fire engine red. It has three speed gears a big seat for my big bum. And a basket on the back for my shopping. After all these years of being haunted yet enchanted by wanting to be a bike rider, I’ve finally found the answer. I’m now able to ride down the shops without having flash-backs of Kay street Carlton or unforgiving steel doors. I’m not trying to be fast or flashy. I’m just enjoying the stability of being on three wheels. I often ride from my place in Wodonga to the bank of the Murray in Albury. Where I sit with my journal a coffee and marvel at my big red trike.