I see a lot of cyclists around Aber these days. Perhaps it’s always been that way, and I’ve just started noticing them more. Darting through my line of sight, meandering towards me on the pavement, careering around corners or looming suddenly out of the darkness on winter evenings.
You have the serious, lycra-clad enthusiasts, peddling frantically on their hi-tech, lightweight bikes that cost as much as a small car. There are the parents and kids, often trying to cross busy roads, which can be a bit like watching a mother duck leading her ducklings to safe waters. Then there are the people who seem to spend a lot of time stopped, or pushing the bike along while having a good chat.
Youngsters are often seen parked up on what seem, to me at least, like rather undersized BMX’s, usually engrossed in a mobile phone.
Some time ago I had spotted an old chap, on a mountain bike, carrier bags full of shopping hanging from the handlebars. I had thought about trying to get a shot of him, but he stopped to chat with another chap whom he clearly knew. As I passed, I thought I heard the cyclist say that he was, “..Over 80 now, so I’m slowing down a bit..”. Yesterday, I spotted the octogenarian again and tried to get myself placed for a good shot. But it was a busy day, difficult to get a clear, candid shot. I stood in front of the station and tried to get a shot as he crossed the road towards me, but it was no good. I turned to walk on ahead, but then thought that maybe I should just go for a direct approach, and turned back to face him.
"Excuse me," I started, " but did I once overhear you telling someone that you were 80?"
"83," he smiled
"And you still ride all the time?"
"Well, do you know, " he began, speaking in a crisp, clear English accent, " It's the only thing that keeps me moving. Keeps me alive. Gets me out and about. You see, I don't have any friends now really, they're all dead - all my peer group,"
"That must be difficult, a bit strange..."
"No," he said, smiling with his eyebrows," Not really." He seems a happy man.
I reached for my camera and asked if I could take his photo.
"With the greatest of pleasure," he said.
"So, how do you rate these modern bikes then?" I asked, as I took a couple of shots.
"Oh marvelous! Look at these tyres, " he waved his hand at the wheels of his sturdy mountain bike, "I can crash up and down kerbs with these. Chunky, look at them. Not like those thin, flimsy old things. I still end up buying a new one every couple of years though. Well, I do 20 or 30 miles a day"
"Oh, it's all on the flat though..."
If I'm just half what this man is when I'm 83, I'll be very happy indeed.