Do you remember that blissful moment in Pokémon Red, when after walking around at a snail’s pace for so long, you finally could get your bike in Cerulean City and glide effortlessly down Cycling Road to Fuchsia City (or indeed, to anywhere)? No, you probably don’t because now it’s been a long time and you probably were barely born when they were released. Well, I do, because I was nine years old when they came out (in the UK) and along with all the boys in my class, was immediately obsessed.
For me, there was almost no greater pleasure than whizzing along the routes of Kanto on my bike. Maybe it was the jaunty MIDI keeping my spirits up, or maybe it was just the increased efficiency of starting fights with Bikers, but it was a wonderful time. As a child I was always on a bike, whether it was when I was immersed in my Game Boy, or actual outside in the real world (where, thanks to growing up in the country, a wild animal really did occasionally appear). Now, as an adult, I have managed to combine these two passions, and finally, more than seven months after this was more than an exciting concept, I have perfected the Pokémon Go bicycle rig.
I know that our esteemed Games Editor thinks Pokémon Go is over (and is lacking a lot of the bits that made the original RPGs fun), but the Gen 2 Pokémon dropped last week, bringing 80 new Pokémon and huge changes (OK, small additions) to the mechanics of the game (more berries and evolution items). Along with the holiday events that made everyone bored of novelties like Pikachus wearing Christmas hats (but not six hour lures, they’re still great), this has caused a small resurgence. Not enough to get everyone playing again, but it’s stirred the completionists like me – who sometimes likes to catch a few Pidgeys on the bus while hoping I’ll run into that Aerodactyl I’m still missing – back into full catching mode.
Back in July, I hunted a lot on my bike, holding my phone in one hand and steering with the other, while cycling slow enough to hatch eggs along the residential streets of West London. As well as getting a very sore steering arm, I fell off (or more accurately, fell into stationary objects) a couple of times before I got the hang of it, but it did up my game. Now, with a nearly full Pokédex and the existence of an actually functioning tracker, I can be more selective about what I catch, and with Pokéstops spawning evolution objects at random, covering distance and hitting as many places as possible becomes the name of the game. So I got out my phone mount for my bike, and started hunting on my commute. At first I was a bit wobbly, nearly swerving into parked cars as I threw my Poké Balls or spun PokéStops, but after a few minutes I caught three Pikachus while cycling along Shepherd’s Bush Green without leaving the middle lane of traffic (don’t do that, it’s stupid and you will get hit by a truck and killed). You don’t get as much distance as if you walk or take the bus (a quarter of the distance if you’re lucky), you’ll get to your destination slower than if you cycle full pelt, but it is really very fun. Hunting Pokémon on a bike captures the essence of the game, where you can excitedly dash between locations to get the Pokémon you need. There’s nothing like the unbridled joy of finally hatching that Togepi while freewheeling down High Street Ken, and getting all of the evolution sets for common Pokemon is a breeze.
Safety warning: it is a huge distraction when cycling, and you need to keep your wits about you. You need to be prepared to cycle past that Tyranitar that spawned on Hammersmith roundabout when you can’t stop safely (you can always go back for it!) or leave a Pokémon hovering uncaught on your screen for five minutes while you navigate through a traffic jam. On balance, I don’t think it reduces your awareness much more than listening to music when you’re cycling (no matter how leaky those earphones are, it’s just not safe), which I do not condone at all, but if you aren’t very confident in your ability to not get too sucked into the game then you definitely shouldn’t do it at all.
If you do want to reignite your love for Pokémon Go, now is the time. Buy a handlebar phone mount (they’re only about a fiver on Amazon), and embrace your inner nine year old me excitedly speeding down Route 17 picking up all those delicious hidden items. But maybe don’t do it at rush hour, drivers in London are crazy.