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Melbourne is a cycling city. That was one of the many things that attracted me to moving here. I am a born-again enthusiast of two wheel flight. About a year and a half ago, I split from the cycling church of my youth into a splinter group of of heretics–recumbent and trike riders. Why? Well, aches and pains had a lot to do with it. It made a lot of sense to me to look at the sky instead of the ground. I toyed with the idea of a trike, but I wanted to ride on roads as well as bike paths and trikes seemed to take up too much room. We bought a tandem first. I invested in my own recumbent about six months before the move.

The weekend before last I found a group of fellow heretics. They are part of the OZHPV group (Australian Human Powered Vehicle). They have social rides every Sunday. Last night they met downtown in front of the State Library in an attempt to drum up interest for an upcoming event– this weekend’s cycling challenge at Casey Fields in Cranbourne. There will be a concours d’elegance, a drag race, sprint, timetrial, a one hour roadrace, a twin slalom and a “shopping race.”

The British are tinkerers. It is hard to imagine the industrial revolution without the inventions that came out of Great Britain. In this corner of the commonwealth, one of the spin offs of that sensibility has been the creation of self-propelled machines the likes of which I have never seen before. Tandems, recumbents, ingenious folding trikes. Most of the members of the group build their own two, three and four wheelers.

Last night I looked down at one little grasshopper-colored bike and asked the owner where it came from. He said it was a Japanese design, made in Taiwan, but he had changed almost everything from the steering to the seat. The leader of Sunday’s spontaneous rides took one look at my bike and suggested I switch to underseat steering. He would help me, he said. No problem. They are cycle recyclers, inventive and fun. They are not the lycra set, determined to huff and puff their way to the front of the pack. They are laid back and relaxed, taking in the scenery, chatting and dreaming up new and better designs for the most efficient vehicle ever built.

Maybe it is time the heretics took over the church.

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