I have one of those really horrible jobs that sends me away on lots of overseas trips. 2 sleeps from now I’ll be heading to Singapore, the Netherlands, France and then Spain, and going to two cities I haven’t been to before: Barcelona and Paris. 2 sleeps out is when I start thinking through the logistics, and pros and cons, of taking my folding bike with me.
When I step out of the train station in Paris, for instance, would I rather: A. have to have planned how to get to my hotel on the metro or bus; B. be ready with cash for a taxi ride to my hotel, or; C. be cycling the moment I set foot in Paris, and just ride around until I find my hotel? From experience, I can tell you option C is my preference. The only drawback, is I will have to pack light.
Oh gee, no suit! Just one pair of shoes! What about all my bow ties! That’s such a shame because I had visions of stepping from my hotel looking like Jean-Pierre Lorit in Three Colours Red (you know, like someone who does everything wearing a suit) which I can’t do if I take my bike, and have to pack light. I would have liked my first night in Paris to be a homage to Marlon Brando, but if I have to be packing light, how can I hope to score in the first bar I enter and be packing some stranger with butter in the first one I enter (so many smutty puns there, I’m sorry). Marlon could not have been so persuasive had he approached her in bike touring clothes.
So it would appear only a masturbation fantasy is preventing me from taking my bike. Media images of travellers strolling about with matching luggage, and rollicking through those lists of must-do things in great cities they print in in-flight magazines, are just as much a big wank; that’s one thing a life of travel has taught me. Those images don’t mention all the time and money those folk waste in bad smelling taxis. On a bike I will immediately have more command of Paris than many Parisians: all those who don’t cycle. I won’t hop between famous landmarks like tourists, learn the metro like locals, or learn street names like drivers. I’ll probably get my bearings from waterways, like the Parissi tribe who first settled the area.
Yes I know, Paris has those Velib bikes. But I’ll be staying in lots of smaller towns too.