Get On You Bike

Pauline Nevins Mar 15, 2022 - Auburn Journal

“On your bike” is a phrase you’ll recognize if you have an Irish connection. And you’ll know it’s not a question, but an invitation to “buzz off,” if you’re American, or “bugger off,” if you’re British.

I’d heard this phrase from my Irish mother but never saw it in writing until I read “Good Eggs,” a debut novel by Rebecca Hardiman. I laughed so much I read it again. In Hardiman’s book, her character, Millie, a shoplifting 83-year-old Irishwoman, is anticipating a getaway. “She’ll be on her bike. So to speak,” writes Hardiman, after Millie calls a taxi.

One woman who doesn’t need to be told to get on her bike is Carol Maynard. Sitting with my back to the door at Grandma C’s café in Colfax, I was distracted from licking chocolate off my lips by a clickety clack. Someone entering the café in their tap shoes? I turned and recognized Carol, clad from the kneecaps up in skintight cycling Lycra. We exchanged greetings. She grabbed a coffee and off she tapped.

I’d driven past Carol on her bicycle several times and was curious why a woman, who I assumed was retirement age, was brave enough to ride a bike on an American road. Growing up in England, it was common to see adults riding bicycles for transportation. My stepfather, Sid, an accounting clerk, folded the cuffs of his suit trousers with bike clips and rode to work at Whitworth’s – flour millers since 1886 – each day, rain or shine.

A close American relative, who shall remain anonymous, assumes an adult riding a bike either can’t afford a car or they have a drinking problem. Neither case applied to Carol. I found this out when I called and invited her for coffee.