Going for bike rides on Rottnest Island is one of my favourite things to do. Cycling around Perth’s very own little island paradise with its crystal clear waters and island-holiday atmosphere feels like worlds apart from reality. With no private vehicles on the island, cycling or walking is the main form of transport and it adds to the relaxed vibe for a perfect holiday destination or weekend getaway.
I’ve written about the island and some of my bike rides before, but I have to mention that I’m no great cyclist. I enjoy the exercise but I do it at my own pace, stopping for photo opportunities as many times as I like, which usually means that the rest of the family are quite content to let me go on my own. Here in Perth our rubbish removal trucks (and some other vehicles) have warning signs on the back saying: “Frequently Stopping”, as they drive from home to home, stopping at each one to lift and empty the contents of the rubbish bin into the truck, such as this:
Riding with me would be a bit like driving behind one of those vehicles. For that hour or so I’m out having fun the way I like it, without having to please anyone else. My bike is an affordable not-too-frequently-used hybrid between a road bike and a mountain bike plus I don’t wear toe-clips or cleats like Ironman does. There are some seriously venomous snakes on Rottnest Island and we usually go during late spring when the weather has warmed up and the snakes are out and about. At some of the places where I go cycling on the island I might not see another person for miles so care has to be taken not to have an incident with a snake because help might not be close at hand. A few years ago while we were visiting Rottnest one poor tourist swerved violently on his bike to avoid a snake that was on the road and got himself seriously injured when he came off his bike (at which point the snake was thankfully nowhere near him). Bearing this in mind I’ve drummed it into myself not to swerve at high speed should I come across a snake but instead to keep going straight and lift my feet off the pedals and keep going with legs sticking out straight forward to avoid a snakebite, something like this (my bike isn’t fitted with a basket, just saying):
Thankfully I’ve never had to put it in practice (and no-one’s ever seen me do this), but it’s clearly a safety precaution that my feet aren’t clipped in. Apparent mistake number one. All in all I’m quite not the pro cyclist. And of that I was reminded starkly a few years ago. We were on the island and decided to go for dinner at the Quokka Arms Pub and since our accommodation units were about 2.5 kilometres away we cycled there. The kids went ahead (no waiting for the old slow coach parents) and my husband and I ambled down there and, in my case, wearing sandals. Mistake number two. Vanity got in the way. But who goes out to dinner wearing training shoes? Anyway, we were riding along and got to one of the steep hills on the way (the island is really undulating) and I pedalled for all I was worth to get up the hill with my husband following behind when his quite vocal “encouragement” turned into highly distracting commentary of the way I looked. Instead of just laughing it off I decided to stand up on the pedals to get up the hill faster and away from the commentary. Fatal error number three. My getaway-attempt lasted about 4 seconds when one sandal slipped off the pedal and – because I was pedalling with some force – I went after it. Down like a sack of potatoes, very ungraciously and amateurish. (Grond gekoop, as we say in Afrikaans – direct translation: bought some earth, which doesn’t have the same ring to it though).
Ironman was immediately concerned and helped me get back on the bike so we could go back to our unit where I patched up my knee before we headed out again. Sadly my jeans couldn’t be patched up (I’m no seamstress at the best of times and I wasn’t about to turn into an emergency one), but we out set again because our kids and friends were waiting for us to have dinner. The analysis of the cause of the incident was done without delay and squarely blamed on my lack of toe clips. “But imagine how I’d fall if I’d started using toe clips at my advanced age” I said, because every toe clip novice (and a more experienced one that I know) fails to unclip their shoes a few times before the inevitable (mostly) sideways tumble to the ground, usually while stationary!
At least I didn’t get badly hurt. I’ve gotten hurt worse than that with several falls off horses over the years, sometimes landing on my guava (backside) as my husband put it. Mother Earth is quite hard though, when you’re nosediving with nothing to break your fall. The worst I had to deal with this time was my injured pride over my amateurish effort to stay on the bike for 2.5 kilometres before I’d even had a drink.