A man and his machines

Alan Walker standing with his road bike and touring bike

Never too many bicycles: Alan Walker has spent many years collecting and riding bikes.

Alan Walker is one of Bendigo’s often sighted cycling characters who adds to the colour and fabric of the cycling community. Alan first became enthusiastic about cycling for its own sake, instead of just a way to get around, in his teens. After a cycling tour with his family from Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, he was then hooked. Alan reflected on his first bike which was a Moulton with full suspension, a Christmas present for riding to school, lamenting that this bike is long gone.

Since this time Alan has collected many bikes in addition to a few old bikes in various stages of waiting to be restored, making seven rideable bikes, one for ever day of the week. These in summary are as follows:

  • For long distances, an Allsop Softride and a Specialised Sequoia. Alan has fitted these both with superb lights, for night riding
  • For touring – a Trek 520 and a Shogun Alpine. Specially for multi-day camping tours but the Trek is also his daily ride to work bike
  • For the rough stuff, a Giant VT with dual suspension and disc brakes and a Repco Bushranger, for off the road experiences
  • For fun, a Pinarello Quattro Gambe Motrici (Italian for “Four Leg Power”) tandem.

Alan with a wry grin comments “This is a very fast bike. I think of it as my pedal-power Ferrari. I wish I was a good enough rider to justify it!”
Thinking Alan would have a favourite or nick name for his much favoured steed, was not the case. Alan sees all his machines in their purpose and place but he does have a sentimental attachment to some. The older ones tell of wonderful experiences and life-long friends and the new ones tell of roads still unexplored.

For the record Alan would have ridden the Softride more than any of the others. Softrides have gone out of fashion, but there is something special about a bike that lets one ride 300 km or 400 km non-stop with no discomfort. The suspension for the saddle and the handlebars work very well. I asked Alan if he had memories and stories to share about any of his bikes and the following was the heart warming response.

Alan first set eyes on an old Repco many years ago when he was riding across the Snowy Mountains, east-to-west. By sheer coincidence, at Nimmitabel, he met some friends who were traversing the Snowies from south to north. One of them was riding the Repco which took Alan’s fancy. A few years later Alan bought it from him at the Bendigo Swap Meet and gave it to his father. When his dad quitted cycling, he gave it back to Alan, who has since also ridden it across the Snowy Mountains.

For Alan, cycling links so many stories and good memories, from exploring the suburbs of Adelaide as a child with his sister, more than 40 years ago, to completing the 250 km Audax Alpine Classic Extreme this year. Taking part in the first ride of Audax Australia. Riding from Geelong to Mildura into a cold head wind, then riding back – also into a cold head wind! This simple but wonderful little machine has taken him from the stony deserts of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco to the dripping rainforest of the Errinundra Plateau in Gippsland and from chic cafes in France to rough-as-guts pubs in outback Queensland.

The stories crowd on top of each other and blur together after sharing the road over many years. But, like most life experiences, there are always some that stick in the mind, like this snap shot from Paris-Brest-Paris, a famous 1200 km marathon ride held in France over four days every four years. Picture prosperous French farmland under a blue sky. Picture cyclists on their way back to Paris from Brest with 900 km in their legs and 300 km to go. A bunch of about 50 riders has formed, talking in a mixture of English, French and a dozen other languages, all focussed, confident and grimly determined. Up ahead, on a side road, a Frenchman stands waiting beside his car. He has driven to see this legendary event. As the peleton approaches, he raises his bugle to his lips, blows a fanfare then stands to attention to salute the riders as they pass.

With Alan you feel drawn with him into the moment as he reflects on the man and his machines.

Looking forward to seeing Alan on the road again soon God willing

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