Since their invention in the early 1800’s, bicycles have evolved from a two wheeled yoke that you sat on and pushed with your feet, to the super high-tech race bikes of today. But they still do exactly the same thing, even if they are a little more comfortable and faster nowadays. In the past, bicycles were used by many, as their only means of transport. My father in law tells the story of how his father in 1952, wanted to see Westmeath play in Croke Park, 60 miles away. Off he set on his black ‘Bone Shaker’ to see the match. While he was there, he met another Westmeath man who offered him a lift home in his truck. He politely declined, as he wanted to mull over the happenings of the match while he cycled the 60 mile return trip home. 120 mile round trip on a bike that probably weighed three times what a modern bike does. Amazing. Times have changed. Now most people ride bikes – not out of necessity, but out of choice. The growing popularity of bikes in Ireland is staggering and has no doubt been fuelled by the successes of the likes of Stephan Roche and Sean Kelly and more recently by the ‘Bike to Work’ scheme. Who would have thought that Enniskerry and other such cycling hotspots would become so full of bikes at the weekend, that you end up getting caught in bike jams! Talking of which, prior to my first P2N spin, cycling to Enniskerry had been my longest trip on a bicycle. I was 12 and we were going to the annual Whit Weekend Scout camp in Powerscourt. On the way down, the sun was shining and the time flew. The ribald banter of a load of young lads freed from their parents for a weekend flowed. Excessive us of expletives was the order of the day, as there was nobody to give out to us (we had left or Scout Leader miles behind)! The bike that I rode was my legendary ”Triumph 2o’! What a machine it was – when you were going downhill! But coming back home after the Camp we were confronted with the hill from Enniskerry to Kilternan. As we wended our way slowly up, we started to lose people. Our ever decreasing Peleton was finally down to about four of us who were just about managing to stay on our bikes. Who was going to break first? At this stage the guys who were walking had passed us out and were nearly at the top of the hill! We were zig zagging to such an extent that we were making absolutely no upward progress. Then disaster struck (as it tends to in my recollections)! I was putting so much pressure on my pedal with my unsuitable desert boots, that my foot slipped forward and the beautifully positioned lever (for raising and lowering the handlebars) dug in to my knee! I had escaped injury for the whole weekend despite wielding axes, throwing knives and jumping campfires, but my bike got me in the end! So whether your bike memories are good or bad, one thing is for sure, bicycles have become part of our DNA. So maybe Sergeant Pluck’s Atomic Theory in Flann O’Brien’s ‘Third Policeman‘ was true. ‘The gross and net result of it is that people who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle as a result of the interchanging of the atoms of each of them and you would be surprised at the number of people in these parts who nearly are half people and half bicycles.’ Leaves me wondering what the introduction of carbon in bikes will do to the next generation! Cyborgs?