I’ve noticed since moving to a city that doesn’t have bike tracks right alongside a huge river, that I’ve been a lot more inclined to give cycling a go. My history with bicycles is one fraught with danger, fear and injury.
Truth be told, I was never very good at learning how to ride a bike – which may have had something to do with the fact my ‘bike’ growing up was a full-sized women’s racer that my parents got at a garage sale for a grand total of $10, complete with a lovely rusty hue. I was approximately the size of a very thin Oompa Loompa until I was about 20, so how I was expected to even get on it is beyond me. To onlookers, the sight of me desperately trying to reach the pedals while wobbling through the local park would have been more Mr Bean than Cadel Evans. Add to that the fact the park was closely monitored by a family of vicious, unrelenting magpies and you’ve got yourself a recipe for ‘traumatised child syndrome’.
Needless to say, I’ve carried this unhealthy fear of two-wheeled menaces with me into my adult life. Lurking beneath it all has been a secret desire to ride bikes all day, and the suspicion that maybe I’m just one of those natural talents and we’ll discover that I’m world champion material when I hop on the right one.
Until then, I can dream, and enjoy my weekend rides around Adelaide where rivers, hills and magpies aren’t an issue (until September breeding season, and then it’s ice-cream bucket helmet with drawn-on eyes time again). Maybe if I’d lived in an area that encouraged more midget-friendly variations of the sport, I’d be okay. Which brings us to my latest ‘only in Adelaide’ moment: the South Australian Pedal Prix, a.k.a the Human Powered Vehicle Championships. Yep: go-carts gone wild.
What’s an HPV? It’s essentially a trike that’s been lowered to the ground so the rider/driver is lying almost completely horizontal while pedalling; encased in a chassis resembling a bullet shape. For extra touches, add a water bottle at the back with a straw in it for the rider to continually sip from, and maybe a few racing stripes and you’ve got yourself a seriously nerdy sport. Nerdy, but cool, of course. We live just near the old Adelaide race grounds, where the pedal Prix is held every year and we’d noticed a few of the vehicles out on weekends in the past few months. Sunday was ‘ride in the park’ day, so when we rocked up we found 120 teams, plus roadies, plus spectators going nuts over the course. The Pedal Prix is a continual six hour race that works as a lap trial: whoever completes the most laps in the time allocated, wins. With speeds of up to 80kms on the flat achievable, it’s pretty unbelievable. Most of the competitors are school kids, and they don’t take prisoners: each cart is fitted with a laser sound to hit when you’re overtaking as a warning system (because laser sounds don’t increase the nerdy factor at all?!) and the cheeky manoeuvres on the corners can result in some pretty spectacular airborne crashes! The carts are fairly safe though, so as long as the driver doesn’t let go, they’ll be fine, if a little battle-weary.
Three races are held on the HPV calendar each year, the last being a 24 hour race in Murray Bridge, SA in September. I’m not sure how much street cred the Pedal Prix gives a kid in the school playground, but it’s a pretty fun way to get kids healthy these days. And as long as there’s the obligatory sausage sizzle, any event that combines bikes with blood sport is okay by me.
Wine of the week: Nepenthe 2010 Sauvignon Blanc: our celebratory bottle that was bought on the day my lost/stolen iPhone 4 was returned to me in one piece.
Check out the Pedal Prix’s website here: http://www.pedalprix.com.au/news.php