It seems to me that bikes have been a major part of my life forever, but in reality I guess it has only been a relatively short number of years. Nonetheless, it never fails to amaze me how in the most important moments of my life, on those rare and amazing days that I know I will remember ‘till my very last, a bicycle always seems to have a fundamental role to play.

manowheel

On one such weekend a few short weeks ago, I was hanging out on my porch with a good buddy of mine, Tim. I was jumpy and nervous, trying to kill some time. Tim, being the busy bee that he is, was making use of my bike stand and my sunny deck to put a bike back together. For reasons that are not entirely clear to a simple mountain biker like me Tim’s bike, hereafter known as “The Tiger”, had been sent back from The States after a long stint in a repair shop over there and Tim was determined to put it together and go for a ride. So despite the fact that my partner, hereafter known as Frawley, was in the early stages of labour, we went out for a ride.

To set the record straight, it was a long labour, the midwife was there and they were settling down in front of the telly to watch a chick flick. Frawley was just about as settled as a woman in labour can ever get, which means she was fine for at least eight minutes out of every ten. I’m lucky enough that the local mountain bike park is just down the road, and I figured I could be home in minutes if necessary. It was shaping up to be a long day on the maternity front, so after a short “should I stay or should I go” debate in side my head, I headed off for a little break while it was all relatively quiet and went out for a ride with Tim.

I don’t need to go into detail about that ride. You have all had one like it I am sure. On the cusp of momentous events, my mind was free and the body was willing. My riding was quick, tight and alive. Tricky uphill pinches I had never succeeded in making on previous attempts were flowing under my wheels with ease. Tim, usually a speedy whippet who tans my hide, was left to wallow in my wake that afternoon.  We whipped it around a hot lap of the local park, and I was actually laughing out loud on the last corner when I turned around to say something to Tim. Just in time to see him wash out his front wheel and bang The Tiger hard into the dirt.

To be fair to the tough little nugget, Tim got up immediately. Without so much as a grunt of pain, he announced calmly that he had broken at least one bone in his hand. A trip to the hospital was inevitable, and not only on account of Frawley. I was concerned but also torn. Not only was Frawley intent on birthing a baby that afternoon, I also had a two year old daughter due to wake up from her nap who needed looking after. Clearly a calm and steady head was required at this moment. I rose to the occasion, and panicked.

The next hour of my life, I have to admit, is a bit of a blur. In pretty much this order the following events occurred: I got a car, I dropped Tim off at the hospital. I got lost, I found my way home. I picked up my daughter, Molly. I bought her an ice cream. I received a call from Tim to come pick him back up from the hospital as he was done. When I got there I received a call from the midwife saying the Frawley’s waters had broken and I had better scurry home. I called Tim to abandon him then found him again walking down the road so I picked him up anyway. When I got home Frawley was already pushing – she never bothers to wait for me, nor should she it seems. It occurred to me that I may well be the only mountain biker in the world who has had to make a mad dash from a hospital back to my home, as opposed to the other way around, to make it to the birth of my child.

Jarrah Daniel Partridge, or ‘second wheel’ as he is referred to by me and not that many others, was born on my lap in the lounge room of my house late that evening after a marathon push. I was still wearing my riding gear at the time, and the trail dust mingled freely with the blood, sweat and tears of a home birth. It was, without doubt, a defining moment in our life.

If you think that enduro mountain bikers do it hard, then go watch a woman give birth without so much as a Panadol. We have got nothing on them. Frawley was incapable of walking for a few days after that ordeal. In toughness stakes that puts her in front of every enduro mountain biker I know, with the possible exception of Gordo.

For the record, Tim’s hand and The Tiger are fine. Turns out the finger was merely dislocated and I could have saved myself a whole lot of angst simply by giving it a bit of a pull in the park. We are riding again and gearing up for a single speed crack at the inaugural Mawson MTB Marathon. Jarrah is going great guns and Molly is loud and oh so very proud to be a big sister. Frawley is fine; she is a tough old bird and is back in the saddle already, albeit with the help of gears. Just in case I never get another chance to do it in print, I need to say that I love her very much.

It never fails to amaze me how much bikes play a pivotal role in my life. This particular yarn is by no means unique. Other yarns will have to be left for another time for, yet again, I have run out of space. But with the wisdom of one who doesn’t know much but now knows a little more than he used to about being a bloke, let me leave you with this one piece of advice: if your lady chooses to have a homebirth, remember one thing, somebody has to clean up the next day, so make sure you get your ride in early.