One of the many things I love about train/bike commuting are the people I meet on the way. Most of them come and go through your daily commuting life without names being exchanged. I recognise and bookmark most people by their bikes.
A little like Edward Norton’s character in Fight Club, I have my single-serving commuter friends. My current single serving friend is Coventry Eagle, so called for his honest to goodness bluish-greenish coloured Coventry Eagle hybrid bike, decked out with bags, ‘guards and racks with the focus on function and innovation. Eagle gets on at Manchester and alights at Warrington and over the weeks we’ve had a long, linear, serialised chat, never veering too far away from our obvious common denominator – bikes.
CE has recently converted to bike/train commuting, selling his car a few months ago, buying a cheap second-hand bike and commuting to work on the train in all weathers. His enthusiasm is boundless – he gets up early in the morning, goes for a morning swim (getting to the pool by bike of course) then continues on to the station, where he jumps on the train and cracks open his latest charity shop second hand book buy. Half an hour of blissful escape into fiction and he’s in Manchester, where he rides a few miles to his place of work. At the end of the day it’s reverse and rewind and it’s usually at this point when our paths cross.
We’ve exchanged stories about our work, our families – his daughter is an international level swimmer, and newbie though he may be, his commuting kit is finely honed – a pannier for his swimming kit and a Carradice saddlebag, bungeed to the rack for a sway free ride. He taught me a neat trick to prevent the bike rolling around on the train. He has a short, maybe 6 inch, webbing strap with a buckle, which he uses to apply and lock-on the front brake, stopping the bike rolling around on the carriage. It’s simple and ingenious. Gotta be the front wheel – this way the bike can’t steer, tuck its front wheel under and gracelessly curtsey to the floor. Now I have a similar webbing strap, which is kept snugged around my top tube, ready to steady the bike on the rocking, jostling railway carriage.
Coventry Eagle is a big, happy, outgoing chap who talks to nearly everyone he meets. In our insular single serving world he’s a bit of an anomaly. In the library culture of the train, you tend to speak to your neighbour only when necessary. There’s a fine line between ‘friendly commuter’ and ‘crank’ and my bike friend Coventry Eagle walks that line with aplomb.
Why am I relating this to you? Well, let’s face it; I wouldn’t have struck up this friendship in that parallel universe where Resurrectio and Coventry Eagle drive to work. I’ll have to ask his real name next time I see him, before he does what most of my single serving train friends do; suddenly, one day they change trains, change jobs, change lives and that’s that.