Charl Oettle

Meiring st., Worcester, Western Cape, South Africa

2011 / 05 / 07 09:43

'It’s far and above the most rational way of riding around Worcester - Worcester is flat. It is a good system on the roads. If there is a busy road you can just go one block up and you miss all of the busyness. The distances are very short, the furthest distance that anybody lives here is about 5 kilometers - which is eminently suitable for bicycle riding. I live very close to work, so can just as easily walk there, in fact as far as heart exercise goes I would do myself better by walking than cycling - it is about 600 - 800 meters. But by using the bicycle it does mean that at lunch time that if I want to duck out to town I can do so quickly without thinking twice. It gives me another 10 minutes coffee in the morning - which is always nice. Other things, in Worcester certainly it is quicker than going by car - if I had to take a car out of the garage and find a parking place and walk to where I want to be I'd already be there long ago by bicycle. It is an intensely practical tool for me. Not with terribly much romance, it is just a very functional and clear way of running ones life. All of the day to day stuff is done by bicycle. I've got a bakkie - I do use a vehicle - there is no doubt at all given the complete absence of public transport systems in this country that a car has to fill in the gaps. But for the day to day living here I can do 90% plus by bicycle. We have very few weather constraints here in Worcester - doesn't rain very much, and if it does you take a rain coat. The wind is a problem if you catch a really hard wind, it can be like riding into a brick wall. But again the distances are small, and you are riding in an urban environment the wind does not catch you so much - you are not that exposed. For doing shopping it is easy enough, the shops are within 2 kilometers. I mostly use a backpack - I do have panniers, but one backpack is fine. If you are riding to feed a large family your constraints are going to be different and so you'll need to have a bit more planning. One of the arguments that people say that they can't use the bike is that they got to pick up the kids or whatever. My sister lives in England and she is still cycling, getting the kids around with one on the back of the bike and one in a trailer and she was pregnant with number three. So it is feasible, but the more you have to carry the more you need to do a bit of thinking and pre-planning. The other benefits, apart from the quickness is that you don't have to deal with finding a parking place. You go directly from the shop to the shop to the shop that you need to be at so there is no walking. Usually with the car you need to park and then do everything else by foot anyway. The car isn't the time saver there. My daily commuting bike is a hand made Francois du Toit frame and its got a lovely liveliness to it, and when the fellow wanted only R2000 for it I thought it was a pity to leave it hanging. It is a nice bike to ride and its got good components - it has Shimano 600 stuff on it. I also have a touring bike, which was handmade in England - made according to my brothers specifications. He upgraded his bike and gave this one to me. It’s nuisance is that it has 27 inch wheels and they become more and more difficult to get parts for. So I don't use it unless I really need to, it’s got a saddle bag at the back, it’s got mudguards which is very nice if you have to ride in the rain and it has the pannier frames, so when I do need to carry heavier stuff then I can do so. This one rides like a dream. The saddle is an old Brooks saddle. This number on the top tube is the number of one of the zeppelins, my brother is very keen on zeppelins. He got this bike and England, he was working in England at the time. He has ridden to work for years and years in Johannesburg, he is also a doctor. I worked in Holland years ago and went and bought a bike very shortly after getting there - an old tatty second hand back pedal brake affair, but it was my standard means of getting to work there. It is a society that is very geared to cyclists, they think about cyclists and know about them and they take them into account.' 

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Nic Grobler