I was cycling down Bishopthorpe Road in York, on my lovely town bike, wearing a big circle skirt, in a hurry to get to my class at college (I was doing a Masters degree at the time). Wearing a circle skirt wasn’t as ill-advised as it sounds, because the Impala’s chain, sprockets, gears, et al, are entirely enclosed behind a thick plastic casing. However, it was one of those windy summer days, and the wind caught my skirt and whipped it around the back axle, from where it wound its way into the casing and wrapped itself around the sprockets.
The effect of this was to bring me, in full flight down the Bishopthorpe Road hill, to an abrupt locked-wheel stop. I wasn’t quick enough to react, and didn’t get my feet down in time: in the face of traffic coming up from behind, I toppled sideways into the road, straight into their path. I wasn’t hurt by the fall – just bewildered about what had happened.
Fortunately there was enough time for the driver coming up behind me to react; he slammed on his brakes, put on his hazard lights and leapt out of his car to help me up and out of the road. The problem was that my skirt was well and truly entangled with the back sprockets, and I was therefore wedded to the bike via the skirt. The driver and I began to laugh as he helped me to get vertical and we figured out that when I tried to get off the bike, I was losing my skirt. It was a clear choice – my modesty or my mobility. For me, there was no choice: I wasn’t baring my knickers to the passing population of Bishopthorpe Road! We were both almost crying with laughter as between us we lifted the bike – whose wheels were still locked and therefore immobile – and me sort of hobbling astride it – to the pavement, where it and I were propped up at the side of the road. I was completely stuck – I couldn’t sit in the saddle without the skirt being pulled down; the bike’s wheels were locked so I couldn’t even shuffle it along; the only option I had was to remove my skirt entirely and walk home in my knickers carrying my bike. I didn’t fancy that. Not just a modesty thing, but steel-framed Impalas are (ahem) a bit heavy. I’d have been crippled within 20 yards.
The very kind driver, wiping his eyes, drove away having given me the advice: “What you need is a big pair of scissors.”
Which is exactly what I got. Bishopthorpe Road is the home to Cycle Heaven, about 300 yards from the site of my mishap, and I called the shop to throw myself on their mercy. Piers (one of the partners) immediately jumped on a bike and cycled up the hill towards me. Much mirth ensued as he hacked my skirt short and carried my bike down to the shop. I walked home wearing a lower-half garment that could more properly be described as a belt than a skirt, but it was a sight better than nothing.
What really impressed me about this – apart from the volumes it speaks of the service that Cycle Heaven is prepared to offer! – was that it never ended up on Facebook or the like. Piers and the shop were sufficiently tactful to eschew the public comedy and spare my blushes.