When travelling to unfamiliar cities, it is soothing to take with oneself, a range of calming rituals. For me, this goes beyond sequenced ablutions, and pyjamas from home, to a list of things I try to do wherever I go: take a dip at a nudist beach; find that city’s one great espresso joint; hook up with a real slut via Craigslist (gotcha, that isn’t true)… but this last one is true: if I am enjoying a place, I arrange to meet a real estate agent to show me through a few houses to buy. That will always be on my last day, after I have been snooping around residential streets on a bike.
I must confess to have been a gluttonous consumer of jet fuel and cities, since the late 1990s. I haven’t been to multitudes of icons to have my photo taken as proof. But I have left bikes on the sand at many nude beaches, held a bike on my shoulder at some great coffee bars, and fooled myself and many estate agents, into believing I was about to settle down in some hideously expensive neighbourhood, and do nothing but write lesbian fiction, and look cool on bikes. (Tip: make your “inspection” of mansions and penthouses all about finding room for your collection of bikes. Realestate agents appreciate a colourful lie).
And this, gentlemen, is why we all need a bike friday. I don’t mean the Bike Friday hand built in Oregon. Those look totally gay (with no offence meant to actual gays, who rarely look gay at all). No, we need Bromptons with bowler hats, or better still, classic track bikes with s-and-s couplers, that we can smuggle onto a plane.
For my next trip, I really want to go looking like those dudes in Rapha catalogues. It is so important, as we get older, that we never fall into this trap of being practical. Cloth hats are practical. Not shaving, is practical. Systematic adherence to practicality is what makes touring cyclists look like axe murderers. Better to see the world with a cool bike on your shoulder, and wearing dress clothes (women adore “bike specific” pockets and cuff links). It is one thing to be able to go anywhere that you want. It is another, to be welcomed when you arrive.
Going into the new year, may I ask that you each check your look(s) in the mirror. You will be buried in clothes that will date, and your fingernails will keep growing as well. So trim them, and throw out some old shirts. Be ready to get back on your bike in 2012, with some deportment.