Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cycle Tribes: BMX Boys

Not all BMX-ers are 17, clearly
Yesterday I cycled all the way down the (very potholed) Walworth  Road in a tag-team race with a 17 year old on a BMX. It was possibly the highlight of my day. You will have seen this tribe, but only rarely in our great capital- his typical habitat is suburban backroads, car parks, skate parks and woodland. He has not evolved to effectively deal with the longer distances of London roads, or indeed, buses and taxis. The BMX boy will most likely have collar length hair, a hoodie, baggy trousers (or conversely and horrifyingly, jeggings) and a black cap pulled down low- and crucially, no lights. . He will sit way back, low down on his tiny little saddle pedalling leisurely with his knees occasionally hitting his chin. Most at home when standing up on the pedals, he can get some speed up pulling away from traffic lights, but his thick tyres and small wheels hinder any real pace.

These facts of physics were not immediately obvious to the young lad I was cycling beside last night. Waiting at a red light, he looked sideways at me, taking in my pretty pannier, basket, skirt and bell. All these clearly equalled some kind of gauntlet being laid down. When the lights changed he raced away, standing but bent double to stay in contact with the handlebars, the top of his boxers wafting in the breeze. Trusty doesn't exactly go 0-60 in seconds (especially with a pannier full of books) so it took me a minute or so to catch him up, but when I did I quickly needed to overtake. I may be ten years older, but I do have full sized wheels, and the capacity to fully extend my legs. I'm not naturally competitive, but neither do I have the patience to stay behind someone slower than me.

BMX boy was not happy. At the next lights the same thing happened, he shot into the distance but I quickly caught up and overtook. This happened six or seven times, until it had become a bit of a game. By the time our ways parted at Camberwell Green we felt like old friends. As I turned I looked back over my shoulder,  he doffed his cap at me in an archaically chivalrous gesture, exposing greasy hair and a cheeky smile. So I saluted. A moment of cyclist solidarity across the tribes. It made me smile.

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