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Belfast Bikes: The helpline has been fixed so don't let a wet saddle stop you getting on your bike

By Christopher Woodhouse

Published 28/04/2015

Belfast Telegraph journalist Christopher Woodhouse tries a bike
Belfast Telegraph journalist Christopher Woodhouse tries a bike

When asked if I'd like to try out Belfast's shiny new public bicycle share scheme, I thought: "On your bike!"

The last time I used pedal power to get from A to B, I was in short trousers, about four stones lighter and years away from becoming the heavy smoker I once was.

My confidence was further dented when I heard some spiteful knuckle draggers had vandalised a docking station at Stewart Street, beside Central Station.

This is why we can't have nice things.

As with other customers yesterday morning, when I tried to call the Belfast Bikes helpline, all I heard was a sustained drone.

When I tried to get through to someone at NSL Ltd, who run the scheme on behalf of Belfast City Council, I got a pleasant rendition of Dave Brubeck's jazz classic Take Five - but no answers.

I finally registered online, which was reasonably straightforward even for a techno-dunce like me, and I'm assured by the council and NSL that the phone line problems have now been fixed.

With visions of my mangled corpse being picked out from the inside of a bus wheel arch, I nervously set out with a giggling photographer in tow.

The nearest docking station to the Telegraph building is just across the road, beside the Ulster University campus.

I keyed in the code and extracted the contraption from the stand, saddled up and took a spin around Buoy Park.

Before you say anything, I know I'm not wearing a helmet, which is why I didn't venture beyond the boundaries of the stone-flagged park.

Despite its Soviet-style utilitarian appearance, the ride was surprisingly comfortable and the bright, chirpy gold bell brought out the six-year-old in me.

The only downside was a damp backside thanks to the wintry April showers which left the saddle thoroughly soaked.

A small enclosure around the station might help prevent sniggers from work colleagues or the coffee shop queue.

To conclude, if a ham-fisted, bandy- legged specimen like me can make a go of it, then there's no reason why the average Belfast Telegraph reader can't.

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