Saturday, March 31, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
I guess it was only a matter of time before I hit the track. Maybe there is something in the water? Tonight was my second spin at Tempe velodrome. The previous week I arrived 30mins early. As I was sitting next to my road bike gazing across the velodrome an old guy came up to me and said ‘So, you're dreaming of being a f*ckin trackie?’. I didn’t know what to say but ‘Yes’. In my first week I just got used to riding a track bike and knowing the basic rules of the velodrome. I was fortunate to have Lindsay Monks as my guide. Riding up the bank for the first time was really trippy but within no time it felt second nature. This week I learned how to do sprints, ride in a paceline and stay on the rollers. The track is a lot fun but I’m not sure if I’d take it to the competition level. For roadies at least it’s a great way to learn how to do sprints and its also a good place to get some training in through the dark winter months. I’m surprised that so few roadies ever try it. However, this has not been the case with Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club where track riding has undergone a bit of a renaissance in the last year. I’m just the latest of a number of newbies who have joined the ranks of the f*ckin trackies.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Last Saturday was meant to be the beginning of my racing career with the Dulwich Hill Bicycle Club. I was going to be racing in the Heffron Park criteriums but it was rained out. Despite this, I did manage to get a spin with my local bug group. It was our ‘Seniors Week’ ride and although I was seriously lacking in seniority, I couldn’t say no to free coffee and cake at the Adora Chocolate shop. There were about eight of us and during our coffee one passing motorist yelled out: ‘I’m going to slash your fucking tyres’. This was third of a number of interjections that I had experienced in the last week. I raised the question of what motivated such behaviour beyond the simple ‘dickhead factor’. One of the Ashbug member (Leonard) suggested that he thought cyclists had become the new ‘outgroup’ because ‘multiculturalism’ had stopped people from expressing other forms of hatred. Cyclists were soft-targets and they had filled ‘the gap’ as objects of societal hatred. One could believe such a hypothesis if one were to only to read articles in the Daily Telegraph, however my initial thoughts were that this was not the most plausible explanation. Cyclists come in many shapes and sizes and I don’t think of the carbon fibre boys as much of a ‘minority group’. They are unlikely to be subjected to discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, race, class or sexuality. Secondly, I was not of the opinion that multiculturalism had really censored racism, rather, it has just made it more unacceptable in public discourse (think John Brogden’s infamous comments on Helena Carr). However, if we are to compare the fate of the cyclist with certain racist fantasies, I do think we could draw some similarities. Both cyclist and some migrants are objects of fear amongst many people. In drawing these connections, my thinking comes from the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, who has developed a unique way of analysing racism as a form of psychic fantasy. According to Zizek:
What is therefore at stake in ethnic tensions is always the possession of the national Thing. We always always impute to the “other” an excessive enjoyment: he wants to steal our enjoyment (by ruining our way of life) and/ or he has access to some secrete, perverse enjoyment. In short, what really bothers us about the “other” is the particular way his enjoyment, precisely the surplus, the “excess” that pertains to this way: the smell of “their” food, “their” noisy songs and dances, “their” strange manners, “their” attitude to work. To the racist, the “other” is either a workaholic stealing our jobs or an idler living on our labour, and it is quiet amusing to notice the haste with which one passes from reproaching the other with a refusal to work to reproaching him for the theft of work. ... What we conceal by imputing to the Other the theft of enjoyment is the tramatic fact that we never possessed what was allegedly stolen from us... (Slavoj Zizek, Tarrying with the Negative, Duke: 1993, pp202-3)
Offering a comparative analysis, we could say that for the motorist, the road has become his Thing. For the motorist, the road is a point of identification and source of enjoyment. The cyclist threatens to ‘invade’ and ‘steal’ his precious ‘road-Thing’. The cyclist, as is so often claimed, doesn’t know how to follow the road rules, she doesn’t pay rego etc. The cyclist appears to have a ‘perverse’ way of being on the road that the motorist does not have access to. The cyclist also has the freedom to get around the city with much ease. The cyclist has simply ‘too much enjoyment’ of the road and is envied for this. In contradiction, however, the cyclist may also be seen as the one who doesn’t have enough ‘enjoyment’ of the road, or at least doesn’t know the ‘right way’ to enjoy the road. Rather than joining in with the line of cars and their air-conditioned bliss, the cyclist risks ‘life and limb’ sweating it out just to get around. She is the strange, smelly ‘vegan koala’ who is determined to ride through the heat, rain, and pollution in spite of more comfortable options. The cyclist doesn’t take the easy way. Her strange ways makes the motorist feel uncomfortable and a little paranoid. What is she doing there? Why does she do it? What it is that she really wants? Is she secretly plotting to steal the road from me?
While I don’t know if such comments makes for a very apt comparison with Zizek’s analysis of racist fantasies, I think that a certain hatred of cycling does provide some form of libidinal satisfaction for the motorist would be otherwise be pissed off for being stuck in traffic. The motorist’s fantasy of having exclusive enjoyment of the road provides an imaginary framework whereby the cyclist is positioned as either a troublemaking trickster or a shady road theft. Rather than recognising the cyclist as another legitimate road user, this framework allows motorist deflect any sense of responsibly for being part of the traffic, being part of the problem, or imagining another solution.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Here are some photos from lastnights BiciSport Tempe Track Carnival. A great event where everyday club riders can mix it with international champions. Unfortunately, my camera's not to crash hot for this kind of fast action cycling.
Ben Kirsten piping out Daniel Ellis in the Men's 2000m Kierin Final.
Ben Kirsten piping out Daniel Ellis in the Men's 2000m Kierin Final.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Sydney Body Art Ride has posted a really nice blog about the difference experience of life that comes froms driving cars and from cycling in the city. These the words and image resonate with my week on the bike. On Sunday, especially, I had one of those amazing days on the bike. I’d left home at 6am to ride the Royal National Park loop with DHBC. I then meet up with my friend Pete and we rode down to Wollongong. During the day we caught up with several friends, went to the beach, visited my Gran and were showered with hospitality by all we meet. I just managed to get home before 10pm, only two minutes before the massive electrical storm broke. Yesterday, however, was not one of those perfect days. I left Uni at 4 pm to avoid the storm and as I passed down Wellbank Street in North Straithfield, I was blasted by a motorist honking his horn. I had taken the lane and was turning right within another 50m. I had indicated my intention to turn but the thought of waiting another 10 seconds was too much for this hot-head. He blasted his horn again and again and called me a fuckwit. Of course if I were turning a semi-trailer around the same corner, there is no doubt that this idot would wait patiently for several minutes, but idea of the cyclist asserting their right to the road was out of his comprehension. Thankfully, these things only happen every so often and a cool head can overcome the sense of moral outrage and indignation that stirs at such times. This was only the second time such an event had happened this year. Oddly, the previous event was also around the same time and place. I have come to call it the ‘ute hour’ and I even joked about it with my workmate as I left the office yesterday. It encompasses the lull before the storm of peek hour traffic. At this time, thousands of aggressive rat-running motorists hoon across Sydney’s backstreets trying to outrun the impending doom of total congestion. It’s not the best time to be on the road. Later at Lyons Road West, I signalled to turn right and was thankfully let into the lane just before I turned at roundabout onto Harris Rd. The driver acknowledged my presence, I acknowledged his with a nod and I felt much better in the knowledge that only some of Sydney's motorists are complete psychopaths.