By Ambassador Jake Hood.

To many of us, a bicycle was our first taste of freedom. The humble 2 wheeled machines took us on our first solo adventures. Our first escape. Our first adrenaline rush.

For a lot of us, the bicycle is still our choice for an escape from the world. A way of getting exercise. Adventuring, Seeing new places. Clearing our minds. Getting a moment of clarity to gather our thoughts.

Through this first 5 weeks of lockdown, I’ve seen so many more people out on bikes than I’ve ever seen in Queenstown. It’s great. People are rediscovering their love for the bicycle.  Smiling, getting out there, Amazing.

Because I’m a bike mechanic, there’s always something wrong with my bike. I spend all day fixing everyone else’s bikes so the last thing I want to do is fix mine. I just ride around the problem of my bike. If the gears don’t work right I just stick to the ones that do work. If my bike creaks, I just try to ignore it and so on. The week before lockdown, my bike was in a bad way. It just needed some love. Unfortunately, I didn’t get time. Lockdown came.  I was stuck with a bike that had lots of niggles.

I was planning on doing heaps of riding during lockdown. Head out most days and crush some serious vertical meters. The first rides were okay but the issues with my bike were bugging me. My fork needed a service. It was creaking under load pedalling uphill. My brake pistons were not returning properly. All these little things were bugging me so much that it removed any sense of joy from riding. It made me not want to ride. 

The thing that I used to get away from the world was not really an option. If I was having a bad day I didn’t have an escape from that. If I did go out for a ride I would normally end up coming back in a worse mood.

We moved to level 3 this week. It meant I was back to work, back to fixing bikes. Doing what I love. The workshop is the usual flat out busy. NO time to stop. At the end of the second day, I decided to service my bike after finishing work. I serviced the fork, serviced the brakes, sorted the creak, cleaned out and regreased the bearings, treated it to some new cables and a good old shine up. I was in the shop till late but I was in my old little world. I remembered how much I enjoyed working on my own bike, Trying little tricks to get the maximum performance out of the bike. Tricks that I normally end up using on your bikes if they work. Just a little modification that makes everything that little bit better.

I locked the shop up. Jumped on my bike and pedaled home. My bike was smooth—no noise, no creaks, no vibrations, Just a bunch of metals rubber and plastic working in perfect harmony. I smiled. For the first time since lockdown I actually wanted to go for a ride.  I wanted to head off into the hills and not come back. 

The next day I woke up, grabbed my bike and headed off to the hill. I was excited. Actually I was really excited. My bike was finally back to its best.  I headed out for a 3-hour ride ticking off a massive list of trails. I was gelling with my bike again, reaching that zen-like state on the descents where you’re not thinking of anything. Your mind and thoughts are totally clean. Time goes by slower. Pure bliss. Man and Machine working in perfect harmony. 

The joy of riding my bike was back. My tool for escaping the world was back. I could head out for a ride with unclear bad thoughts and come back thinking straight and happy again. To me, the humble bicycle is more than just a frame, components and 2 wheels. It’s a tool for helping with my mental health, for improving relationships with friends, for letting me go on adventurers, and telling stories. It clarifies my mind.

At times like this, we should be looking after our mental health more than ever. We need to try to maintain a stable mindset. We are going to have our up and down days. My bike was this tool for helping with my mental health but the niggles were stopping from sorting my mind. They would make me want to not ride it. I would spend way too much time inside rather than out. Now I’ve sorted it, all I want to do is ride my bike. Get our exploring. Working on my fitness. Enjoy getting lost somewhere.

Getting your bike serviced might be one of the best things you can do to help yourself. It might help you enjoy the outdoors, even more. It might help you with the change you had set for yourself. It might just be nice to give your bike a tickle up. It might help you maintain a stable mindset. It might be the best thing you do all lockdown.


Jake Hood