For years magazine features called things like ‘15 reasons you know you’re a cyclist!’ have been a staple of publications like this one.
And for just as long the writers of these features (I have several offences that I would like to have taken into account) have included among the 15 that staple of the genre, ‘Your bike is worth more than your car.’
Achieving this coveted perversion is becoming easier and easier with each passing year. Cervélo recently announced that the price of its new flagship TT/tri bike was £13,499. That’s not just more than the price of my car, that’s more than the cumulative price of every car I’ve ever owned.
A local second-hand car dealer offered to sell me a two-year-old BMW for the same price, and when I told him why I’d rung to ask, he laughed so hard he dropped his phone.
It’s a striking example (though only slightly — the Cervélo in question isn’t a weird one-off concept bike, it’s a bike that at least some people will actually buy).
But, at the risk of sounding like the old man of the long road, things in this area have really altered. And it’s not just bikes that have changed, so have cars.
Cyclists used to drive special cyclists’ cars. They weren’t a particular make, but you would still recognise one when you saw it.
A bit like a cyclist’s garden, the defining characteristic was the care and attention that had completely failed to be lavished on it.
Chuck it in
In the 1990s I owned a Vauxhall Nova that was a good example. With a bit of imagination it was possible to fit three riders, three bikes, 12 wheels, two turbo trainers and three kit bags into it.
There was no space for a toolbox, or any spares, but that didn’t matter, we just chucked any tools and things we might need loose into the car to fill up the air gaps.
We threw things in through the sunroof sometimes. Taking the bikes out when you got to the race was a bit like playing Ker-Plunk with spanners.
Repeating the same packing technique with energy gels was a mistake, though, because the packaging wasn’t up to being abraded by random cycle components. We almost ended up as part of a giant bicycle and berry-flavour terrine.
Of course every bit of the Nova’s upholstery had a chain-ring mark, and the seat belts were covered in chain gunk. However immaculate you were when you got in, you looked like a cyclist when you got out.
But I could, as I once did, perform a complete bike rebuild in a race HQ car park with just the things I found in the foot-wells.
No one who asked if they could borrow a ball-ended 2.5mm Allen key ever went away disappointed, even if all that lumber made the 1-litre engine car so heavy that I had to drive at all times with one or other of the accelerator or the brake flat to the floor.
My current car is a bit less ‘cyclist’, but has some of the same lineage. The back seat is largely bike-free, but the boot is, as it should be, a random selection of tools, brake cables, punctured inner tubes and bottles with energy-drink fuelled things growing in them. A non-cycling friend who saw it has called me ‘Steptoe’ ever since.
Last summer Mrs Doc produced something called a ‘boot-tidy’. “I thought,” she said, “that since you’re not racing as much these days, you could put all the stuff you need for races into this, and then when you get home you could put the whole thing in the garage and we would have a normal car, like everyone else.”
Honestly. A normal car. Like everyone else. Sometimes it’s as if all my training over the years has had no effect at all.