Google “The Green Man” and you’ll read: “The Green Man is a legendary being, primarily interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of new growth that occurs every Spring.”
It’s also the name of this new series of columns. A symbol of new growth, and healthy healing.
To be in great health, so many micro-habits need to be practiced every day. And a whole lot of them are simultaneously achieved through the simple act of riding bikes: Fitness, immersion in nature, solitude, fresh air, discipline, no screen time! – and many more.
So here’s a story about riding!
“Bicycles are like words: waiting to be woven into stories.”
Is that a famous quote? Not yet! You read it here first!
I got my first bike when I was six. A Raleigh Sunbeam, with white balloon tyres. My little brothers and I used to explore a web of sandy roads lined by grey-trunked poplar trees alongside the Blouklip River on a farm at the top of Blaauwklippen Road outside Stellenbosch.
In about Standard One (Grade 3), my best friend got a BMX that we all stared at with envy: the Raleigh Tuff Burner – sporting outrageous yellow plastic mag wheels. Whoa!
I got his hand-me-down, his base-model Burner, for R60.
But I soon progressed to a racer. Now we were 10 years old! Time to ride our first “Argus Tour”. We signed up as a team of three, all in Standard Three – in a massive field of 1600 riders!
My steed was a small five-speed Peugeot Springbok. We had zero training – but were as fit as Oliver Twist’s pick-pockets from roaming our parks and streets, night and day.
Our parents humoured our exaggerated ambitions, and waited at the halfway-mark, at Cape Point – ready to load us up, offer their condolences and tutt-tutt: “Well done for trying, boys. Bad luck.”
But we sped right past – eyes wide and hearts on fire. Not from exhaustion, but delight! How many 10-year- olds get to explore one of the world’s most breathtaking peninsulas on two wheels? So young and free!
My other best mate, Moray Wilson, and I were the youngest two children to ever complete the Argus Tour back then.
The finish was at Camps Bay beach – 104km in five-and-a-bit hours. Done! We stitched our cloth finishers’ badges on to our jerseys with pride.
Many bikes have followed – especially in recent years. When my laat-lammetjie was 10 months old, she and I bought a Schwinn Meridian.
A gleaming adult tricycle, with a cargo bay behind, to mount her car baby seat in. The Boo-Mobile was born!
That was five years ago. Recently, Beth was doing an exquisite painting – about mountains and trees, rivers and birds. I asked her: “Boo, who taught you to create such lovely pictures?”
She replied: “Dad. It’s because you’ve taken me on a million adventures on our bicycle, and you’ve shown me the world!”
My work is done.
We’ve banked book-fulls of stories in our hearts. I’ll publish them all one day.
So, I agree – Lance Armstrong was right: “It’s not about the bike.”
Bicycles are about the rides of our lives.
(With love to my other brothers, The Coombe Boys.)
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