My first week of using public transport has opened my eyes to a new world. I’ve partially adapted to the culture of the morning commute, which I describe as ‘the zombie apocalypse’. Everyone looks half dead, no-one is speaking or smiling or interacting. I had one human interaction the whole week a single ‘good morning’ which I received after I initiated contact. This was the one person I sat next to who didn’t have headphones in or was talking on the phone. I watched enviously as people boarded with bikes, that will definitely be my next step.
I was still easing in to full time work so the train home varied depending on the time I left. My favourite was just after 3pm when intermediate aged students were boarding. I enjoyed listening to their banter about school, laughing like human beings. On Friday I was even more adventurous catching the train from a new station and then a bus at the other end. I raced up to the platform hoping to catch the next bus, searching the times I couldn’t believe they only ran every 30 minutes. I had 20 minutes to wait so decided to risk using to bathroom. Big mistake, never again, honestly it could not have been further from the clean, well maintained, fresh smelling, well lit experience of the train. The bus finally arrived, but if it hadn’t been for my familiarity of the area I would have wondered where the fuck we were going.
Basically I think the bus routes in Auckland were made up by some drunk people at Auckland Transport one night by throwing darts at the map and saying ‘yip that street will do’, or let snails loose on a map with ink in their slime to mark out routes – who knows but it’s honestly random AF. If the trains are direct then buses are there to ensure you have to have a degree in geography, synchronising times and do not expect to get anywhere in a hurry. But I did get home and I’m definitely more positive overall, but I am counting down to getting back on the bike. I’d happily take daily abuse from motorists and random strangers chatting to me at the lights than the zombies.
I often hear people say they are ‘stuck in a rut’ but wonder how many of them have actually experienced it in the literal sense. I know its an oft used phrase but for anyone who rides a two wheeled vehicle off road – motor or pedal powered, the actual realities of being ‘stuck in a rut’ are far more interesting.
My initiation to mountain biking was in Dunedin in the early 1990’s as a student. No suspension, just a solid steel frame with no fancy bits. Signal hill was gorse lined and ruthless with deep ruts and unforgiving corners. One crash and you were squeezing red, inflamed pustules weeks later from which would emerge long black spikes like something out of a horror movie.
But learning to ride ruts was crucial. I remember the desperation and powerlessness as my bike slid into a deep one, pedals barely staying clear of the clay either side. I lacked the skills to bunny hop out and really had no idea – I freaked out and made friends with the gorse. The more I rode ruts the more I realised that being stuck in one was part of the adventure, a bit like life.
So here are some things I learned about riding ruts in clay that might cross into some metaphorical, mystical life lesson, mantra or not. First there were times I would be able to avoid them and if I fell in one I would relax my hands because any tension would result in fighting the front wheel, causing the inevitable. Keeping my eyes up on where I wanted to go helped to shift not just my visual focus but my mental focus was ‘there’s where I want to go rather than ‘oh no, I don’t want to hit that’. Surrendering control might sound a little extreme but certainly altering and adjusting my awareness and responses to what control was going to be useful. Ensuring my weight was on my pedals, keeping relaxed and trusting those great knobbly tyres would bite when they needed to helped me negotiate my way out and avoid a later date with disinfectant and an even later one with prickle extraction.
Being stuck in a rut isn’t usually so adrenaline laden, but a rut is a rut and sometimes getting out of one is less poetic – stopping, getting off and lifting my bike out was also a tactic I used. No shame – and definitely less pain.