Here I go making yet another bombshell of a statement that is sure to offend and alienate the nitpickers among you.
Serbian bicycle riders are the worst in the world.
In case you should demand some kind of material proof or desire to go on a fact-checking mission, I suggest you visit any Serbian city, town, village, or backyard. There isn’t a single rust-free bike in this country and, I suspect, the same could be said about the rest of our lovely peninsula. Sorry, Croatians, I know you’re in the EU now, but your “vozni park” fails to impress me.
My family has a long and proud history of crap bikes. I grew up riding the iconic Poni, which all Serbian children learned to ride during the last few decades of the 20th century. The Poni was domestically made and, therefore, cheap. But, it wasn’t cheaply-made. Unlike the Chinese-made bikes I see today’s children on, the Poni was sturdy and made to serve generations of riders.
And, unfortunately, many a Poni did just that.
The Poni had the distinction of being the only bike in the world that could not be classified as a mountain, road racing, or city bike. It was a little bit of everything, and yet not really any of those things. The Poni rode great from your front door all the way to your front gate, usually a distance of about twenty meters. Anywhere else…well, you didn’t really get anywhere else on your Poni.
A little more family bicycle history. My grandfather rode a bike that was about ten sizes too big for him until his dying day. This monster bike was so big and heavy grandpa always had a hard time getting on it. The only way he could get going was with a running start and a giant leap upwards. Of course, this was a crapshoot way of getting on. Grandpa often missed and took a nosedive into the puddle of water perpetually festering in the middle of the driveway. And then there were the times when the whole extended family had to push the bike as grandpa precariously sat on the wobbly seat, which was missing a screw that, apparently, could never be replaced.
I don’t own a bike at the present time. I gave up any desire to ride a bike when I started driving in Serbia. Why? Why don’t you come here and see for yourself.
Every Friday night I take a short but stressful drive from my house to my hometown’s main bus station. This is a distance of a couple of miles, but it could be a thousand for the amount of fear it causes me each and every time.
I’ll admit to being an underconfident driver. I learned to drive on automatic gear transmission, and now I’m stuck maneuvering a 13-year-old Fiat with the moodiest clutch and the world’s least reliable stick shift. As I sweat through first, second, and finally third gear (I never go past that, though I’m told fourth and fifth are a hoot), cyclists emerge out of dark side streets and hidden private drives. These people, with no regard for their personal safety (or my mental stability), ride right down the middle of the road, completely invisible until my front bumper touches their rear wheel, throwing them out of balance and down onto the pavement, face first. Hello, Serbia, ever heard of wheel reflectors?! And how ’bout riding your rusted certain-death contraptions closer to the, what are those things called, um, sidewalks, I believe. No, Serbia, I’m not asking you. I’m telling you: ride your bikes closer to the curb, or suffer me knocking you over with my third-gear-only driving skills.
Guess what…its Friday night. Here comes Johnny, Serbia! Let’s see whose old grandma riding in the dark (with six grocery bags hanging off her steering wheel) I can knock out of her granny panties tonight.
Good luck to us all, and may the third gear be with you.