As you may recall, I’ve taken to adding a bit of running to my cycling. And I’m going to make a horrifying admission — I quite like running.
Not as much as cycling, clearly, or as much as eating a Cadbury’s Flake in the bath, but there is something meditative and slightly mindless about it that’s missing from cycling, where there is quite a bit of time tied up in concentrating on not getting yourself all dead.
But if you mention running on social media, several hundred people tell you off for it. “Is your bike broken?” “What were you trying to escape from?” and “Cyclo-cross? Et tu Hutch?” are just the printable replies.
There is complete unanimity. Cycling is better than running.
The question is, why?
It might be the edgy feel that comes from cycling’s sometimes shady past and present. Perhaps we like to think that we have our place on the fringes of a dark, noir-ish underworld? At last the asthma inhalers that were nothing but a source of bullying at school have become the weapon of choice for people who are not afraid to walk the menacing back streets alone.
We can name 15 different steroids without hesitation or repetition, and identify a user of human growth hormone at 20 paces. (Clue — grotesque jawbone growth means he’ll be flossing his teeth with a dressing gown cord.)
Or maybe it’s nothing that sinister. It could be just the delightfully enormous expense involved in cycling. As we know from the Cycling Weekly product tests, the more expensive something is, the better it is.
A pair of running shoes costs about £100. But you can spend anything up to £10,000 on a flash road bike, which means that cycling is 100 times better than running. Actually you’ll still need to spend at least £100 on a pair of shoes, so that makes it 101 times better.
Or do we somehow enjoy the bloody inconvenience? A runner going on holiday can travel with hand luggage. A cyclist going on holiday will need at least a 20kg baggage allowance, and horse-grade tranquillisers to cope with the stress of looking through the aeroplane window before departure and seeing Gatwick’s beefiest baggage handlers performing the dance of the carbon splinters on their bike bag.
Not to mention the forbearance required to never complain about this horror to their family at any point of the subsequent bike-less holiday. It’s nice to be able to so easily demonstrate our commitment to our hobby.
Another possible attraction is that cycling offers the chance to join a despised minority, the sort you normally have to be born into. As a cyclist all you have to do is go about your lawful, Highway-Code compliant business, and you can depend on receiving abuse, threats, and social media assurances of a messy death.
The feeling of injustice binds us together into a tight brotherhood. But no one really hates a runner. They feel sorry for them, at best, and no one ever built a brotherhood in adversity on pity.
Or is it the sheer machismo? If nothing else we can explain away unsightly-looking scabs as the result of having ‘crashed’, rather than ‘tripped’. Which word is more likely to impress your non-athletic co-workers?
In spite of the expense, the inconvenience, the undeserved hatred, the road rash, cycling is still better. But I honestly can’t nail down exactly why.
I like to think I’m a sophisticated adult, but could it be that it’s just because cycling still feels the way it did when I was 10 years old?
Like seeing beauty in art, cycling’s glory is just a fact, and you have to accept it. We are the chosen people. And I really must stop admitting to going running on social media.