Friday, 20 September 2013

Politically Correct...

Around three weeks ago, when riding my bike with a friend, we were confronted by a guy wishing to throw us off the spot shown in the image below.


Nothing out of the ordinary, but this guy was pretty scathing towards us, more so than the usual "can you guys move on please?". After going our separate ways, I found out said gentleman had written to the local paper with his thoughts on us, which were as follows;
Sir-
On Saturday morning, as I was leaving my house in Cowie for a ride on my bike,  my neighbour stopped me in her car and said there were two people cycling on the  tables at the beach picnic area. She is fed up challenging  people about this and getting abuse (as I have also experienced  in the past) and suggested I might say something this time. 
Sure enough, when I arrived  there were two  men on tiny bikes studiously hopping up onto the tables, down onto the seats, then plopping onto the ground and back up again, as if participating in  some wierd cyclo-mating/male bonding ritual . My neighbour said she also saw them running their wheels along the edge of the tables which would damage the wood, but I didn’t see that.   
Here’s roughly how the conversation went.
“Excuse me, would you mind not cycling on these picnic tables?” 
One of them looked round, and both got off the tables muttering something like an exasparated “OK” , It seemed  this wasn’t  the first time they had been asked to desist from this bewildering behaviour. Feeling like I hadn’t quite got my point over about this misuse of public property, I then asked
“Do you cycle on top of your mum’s dining room table like that?”
“No but I do it in my own place”
“That’s unbelieveable, you cycle on top of the table in your flat?
“Yep” 
Sensing someone digging himself into a verbal hole, I continued. 
“Well please don’t do it here, people are eating their food off these tables, you’ll damage the wood and how do you know you don’t have dog dirt on your tyres?” 
At this point they came towards me and said
“Listen, if you’d be more polite to us we’d just go away. But you’re insulting us. The tables are covered in seagull poo anyway so why don’t you clean them up and, anyway what’s it you you?” 
“Well, I think most sensible people in Stonehaven would be pretty annoyed with two grown men playing on kiddies’ bikes on these picnic tables, and in defence of the seagulls they don’t have the same level of self-control over their behaviour as I assume you guys  have. If you’re needing the bathroom the beach toilets over there are open, courtesy of  the joint efforts of volunteers and the council. I’ll look after your bikes for you.” They rightly ignored this attempt to place them above the herring gull in the evolutionary scale, and then said. 
“ By the way these are professional bikes and there are international competitions on them”
“So is it an extreme sport then?”
“Yep”
“What, big grown men on wee bikes jumping up and down on picnic tables?”
“Yeah, people film this stuff and put it on Youtube”
“You’re joking!” How old are you?” (I could see they weren’t your average hoodie, in fact they were very respectably dressed with nice bright, clean helmets and all the trimmings)
“Thirty five”  
I was truly stunned. “ It’s 10am on a Saturday, you’re grown men approaching middle age, you might even have kids, you cycle on top of picnic tables, sometimes on the table in your house, on tiny bikes? That’s incredible!” 
“Have a look at you own bike, our wheels are the same size as yours!” 
Good point I thought, they seemed to be coming back with a well-argued case for the defence by producing visual evidence that this Victor Meldrew sound-alike was just like them because I had the same size wheels as them. 
At this point I left, hoping  they had got the message that, if I’m right, most of your readers would think that it’s bad enough young kids doing this from time to time, but unbelieveable that grown men should do it. I somehow doubt it. I’ve experienced similar behaviour early one Saturday morning at the skatepark where two mid-20s male primary teachers on skateboards  from the Peterhead area refused to help me clear up a shocking amount of fag packets, beer bottles and sweetie papers from the evening before’s invasion by out-of-town skateboarders. 
 
And one last thing, they said they were from “the North-east” but one of them has relatives living here. So if any of your readers had a visit from their 35 year old nephew, cousin or grandson on his BMX bike last Saturday and he cycled across your living room floor and your newly polished dining room table, leaving a trail of seagull “guano”, now you know where he’s been! 
Yours etc.,
Allan Sutherland1 Willow RowStonehaven

Never one to pass up on the opportunity to offer up an opinion, and rather than get annoyed at the man in question, I decided that I would retort via his chosen venting medium and as such the local paper, The Mearns Leader, has printed my response below. The local community has never had this much scandal;

Sir / Madam 
I would like to respond to a letter printed on Friday 6th September 2013 from Allan Sutherland of Cowie. Fortunately, as I don’t receive a copy of the Mearns Leader in my current residence, a number of friends highlighted my new found, albeit anonymous, fame. I felt that, in the interests of parity, I should respond to the subject Mr Sutherland raised within his letter. 
On Saturday 31st August 2013 I had planned for a relaxing ride on my trials bike with friends, known as a “weird cyclo-mating / male bonding ritual” to the uninformed, following a busy week at work. Our destination? Stonehaven, in part due to its locality to Aberdeen, also because I have been cycling my bike in the town for nearly a decade and mainly due to the fact people are usually open-minded and welcoming. 
So we started our ride at the new purpose built skate park, well, purpose built for BMX’s, scooters and skateboards. Unfortunately the sport of bike trials cannot be wholly interpreted within a skate park and we soon headed on to objects more suited our hobby. Now I can understand that there will always be concern at us riding our bikes at the picnic bench area, or any any public property for that matter, however the issue that arose that Saturday was the attitude and ignorance with which we were approached. 
Two adults on bicycles, one 32 and one 28, navigating our bicycles over various obstacles, not limited to benches, might not sound like a sport to some, but I can assure you that it is internationally accredited. While it may not have the popularity of mainstream cycling or football, Mr Sutherland - Chair of the Stonehaven and District Community Council, as he introduced himself, should be aware that just because he is unable to fathom how specifically designed and expensive bicycles are not ‘kiddies bikes’ does not make it his right to dismiss what we do. 
I would like to re-iterate a few of our points at the time of our discussion with Mr Sutherland, the bikes we were riding were actually derived from mountain bikes, with the same sized wheels as his bike, as such not kiddies bikes. Also, while we are not the youngest participating in the sport, we are not the oldest either. Many people of all ages enjoy the sport for its individuality, and are proud of the practice required to achieve even the smallest of advances, some even manage to make a living out of what we do on our bikes. 
While I can tell that secretly you were impressed with our abilities, and it was purely the location in which we were riding our bikes that caused your annoyance, 12 plus years of practice is what it has taken achieve the skills I have, I am proud of it. The ignorance shown with comments and phrases such as ‘grow up’, ‘kids sport’, ‘weird cyclo-mating / bonding ritual’ and ‘unbelievable’ is in itself unbelievable, especially when coming from a fully grown man. Insults are not really the best way to put forward a compelling argument after-all, especially not on a subject you don’t quite understand. Ask my friends, they should know. 
I really hope that in future you might refrain from trying to squander the self-belief of anyone, young or old, who aspires to achieve a skill through dedication and practice. While my chance at greatness has long gone, hopefully this chance meeting with the Chair of the Stonehaven and District Community Council will not stop me from continuing to follow my dreams. 
Mr Sutherland, while I did laugh at your Victor Meldrew comparison, I’d like to thank you for your concern that day, I honestly do understand your point of view and I will consider this next time I am in Stonehaven on my bike. If our paths cross in the future, I’d much rather you refrained from having a dig at what I do for a hobby. This is my lifestyle choice and not really much to do with you. However just be nice, ask us to move on and we will go our own separate ways, alternatively you are always welcome to come over and have a civil conversation with us. Maybe we can both learn something new. 
As a side note, for those who care, the sport referred to in both this letter and Mr Sutherlands initial letter is called bike trials. More information can be found about the sport at the following websites http://www.biketrialuk.co.uk/What.htm and http://www.trials-forum.co.uk
Yours
Ben Travis
Ex. Stonehaven Resident
Now living in Aberdeen

I am very much looking forward to his response!