When I was six years old I got my first bike with gears. It didn’t have a basket for my cuddly toy dog to ride along with me, as was the fashion with my previous bike, but that didn’t matter because I was growing up and big kids didn’t take their toy dogs everywhere with them.
I’m old enough now that it can be just an odd quirk, rather than a sign of stunted emotional maturity. So Dogger (a name only an innocent child could give a toy dog) can come with me anywhere he wants. I still don’t have a basket though.
The girl that sold this new bike to me, Lauren, a girl in our neighbourhood a few years older than me and so the coolest person in the world, gave me a Del Boy-esque rundown of the machine.
“It’s got five gears and you change them here,” Lauren said while twisting the grip shifter. “Gear one is the slowest and gear five is the fastest.” Simple. I made a mental note that I would be using gear five. Who wants to go slow?
What followed was a lot of getting off the bike and walking up hills. I had my dunce temperament to blame for the struggles of those rides, but being left behind by an Archibald or two didn’t boost morale either.
The hills were steep but my learning curve was notably shallow. Thankfully, my little hand did eventually twist down the gears, confirming that the slow way up was still faster than stopping.
Was it perhaps inevitable that I would fall in love with track cycling, subconsciously still searching for The One True Gear? Probably not.
It was more likely the good luck of getting a shot on Meadowbank velodrome. But nonetheless my childhood logic seems to ripple through track cycling, season after season, as the gears get bigger and bigger in the hope of going faster and faster.
The sport would be more than a decade ahead if only they had listened to six-year-old me back in 2000. I expect I’d never heard the phrase ‘turn it up to 11’, but it was very much my gearing motto.
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