A letter to… my bike

One student talks of the one of the bumpiest rides of all, starting college, and how with the help of her trusty bike, she has been able to glide smoothly by.

Illustration by Amanda Cliffe

Dear Síle,

You might scoff and brand me a cliché-abuser but from the moment I laid eyes upon you, nestled amongst lesser vehicles in ‘Big Nigel’s Bike Shop’ on the Tuam Road, I knew you were the one. You were weather beaten, with some enduring imprints from a previous, gruelling existence, and yet I knew. Dad also knew, but his certainty was motivated by your very reasonable price.

September 19 arrived and it was time for our maiden voyage. Neither of us had any experience with the mean streets of Rathmines and the first Dublin Bus that careered into our path forced us up onto the pavement with the toddlers. Despite our shaky start, we grew braver and wiser to the tricks of the great blue and yellow beasts. We broke land speed records, traffic laws and the toes of unsuspecting commuters on our quest to make it to those pesky 9am’s.

You never had a single complaint, Síle, your woes always secondary to my wants and needs. You never lamented having to bear my steadily increasing weight and you even survived the journey through the minefield that is Harcourt Street on a Wednesday morning, nipping around shards of glass and crumpled cans of Tesco Lager. You have never plagued me to cycle farther or faster. You are unfazed that the extent of your (and my) exercise for the week is a brief trip to Tesco.

I am ashamed to say, you have treated me with greater care than I have ever treated you. You have been left to fend for yourself in the most “up and coming” parts of town: a mere padlock your only defence. You were subjected to the clumsy tinkering of the bike “connoisseurs” across the hall for your repairs instead of the expert care you deserved and lived to tell the tale.

As with all great characters, you have your faults. You creak incessantly when I try to change gear, you are not always willing to break in the rain and I don’t think you have ever had all of the recommended bolts and screws. None of this perturbs me: your  creaks are a chorus of “Ah here, don’t push yourself too hard, gal” and your reluctance to turn left is an injection of excitement into my otherwise mundane existence.

In a rare moment of sincerity, Síle, I might be driven to tell you how grateful I am for your ever presence. You have given me the ability to escape, to quite literally wheel away from my problems. The opportunity to escape the blistering ferocity of my sometimes-crippling anxiety, to elude the omnipresent suspicion that it all might go violently wrong, is something I hope I will never take for granted.  

When we’re whizzing down Grafton Street early in the morning, weaving in and out of soporific pedestrians, irate Gardaí and delivery vans, all of the bees that refuse to vacate my mind are simply left for dust. They can’t keep up with you and for those fifteen minutes, they can’t keep up with me either.

Cheers Síle, it’s been a ride.