A few years ago a friend of mine showed me an analysis of the number of Elvis impersonators in the world. The number was doubling annually.
By 2020, the statistics proved, the entire global population, from the Arctic tundra to Westfield shopping centre, would be wearing a rhinestoned jumpsuit and a black wig, and singing Suspicious Minds into a karaoke machine. I like to imagine the karaoke machines on little trolleys, so that people can take them everywhere.
A similar analysis of national news stories over the last few months shows a corresponding trend. From the Tour to the Olympics, from Lance to Bradley Wiggins and Shane Sutton’s incidents last week, the graph is steeper than the boards of Sir Chris Hoy’s Velodrome.
Last Thursday several national papers led with a mind-numbingly uninteresting photo of a broken wing-mirror on a verge by a petrol station. By next Thursday there will be no news left in the world that isn’t about cycling.
My friend Bernard does not like it. ‘I don’t like it,’ he said, as we were out for a ride last week. ‘At this rate cycling’s going to be mainstream. It’s going to be on all the TV stations, the newspapers will be full of it, everyone’s going to have an opinion about it. We’ll end up with a whole nation of bike-obsessed chattering-classes. It’s going to stop being special.’
‘I bet motorists will still try to run us over, though,’ I said.
‘That will be some small comfort,’ said Bernard. ‘But I’m going to miss it being something romantic, something special. I like the feeling of being a lone wolf, a man alone, out there on the edge, yet at one with his environment. You know, looking at humanity from the outside.’
I was well aware that Bernard looked at humanity from the outside, but I have to say I hadn’t previously twigged that it was his choice. I thought humanity had taken one look at the wrinkly buttocks of Bernie’s winter tights, and made that decision for itself.
Now I realise that he sees himself silhouetted against the moon, atop a cliff with his hair blowing in the wind. Knightrider, with Aldi not-quite Oakleys, rattling mudguards and a slightly squeaky chain.
Heroic acts of idiocy
The lone wolf, awheel in the Cambridgeshire lanes. The shadowy face you can’t quite remember of a man who has seen life from the dark side. Melter-into of backgrounds and protector of the innocent. Springing forth when least expected to give motorists the finger when they upset him, for the good of a world that doesn’t even know he exists.
The lone wolf, stopping to fix the puncture of a helpless woman. The lone wolf, confusing the punctured inner tube with the new one that the swooning damsel was about to successfully install all on her own, putting the old one back in, and riding off with the new one.
The lone wolf, hanging off the back of the local chaingang, crying, ‘Jesus, guys, how about easing off on the hills a bit? Some of us aren’t as young as we were, you know.’ Or ringing round all its friends looking for a lift home after it got hunger knock fifteen miles from home.
He’s right, you know. As the world fills with cyclists and cycling, the lone wolf and his mighty ilk (you might like to imagine his mighty ilk, horns outlined against the moon, faithful at his side) will be drowned out by all the others.
It seems inevitable that the price we’ll pay for popularity is to watch sadly as the lone wolf turns back into Bernard. The world will be poorer for losing another hero. Even if the only person who’ll be able to tell the difference is Bernard himself.
Great Inventions of Cycling – The Helmet Camera
Early attempts to mount movie cameras on bikes had mixed success. Normally they came with a wobbly plastic mounting bracket that could be relied upon to help the camera produce grainy footage of passing clouds, right up to the point where anything interesting happened, whereupon it would normally just break with the excitement.
The lightweight helmet camera has changed all that. It’s now practical for anyone with a few pounds to spare to video every inch of their ride or commute in high definition.
However, a quick trawl of the web suggests there are considerable risks. Road cyclists with helmet cams are invariably hit by cars, threatened by thugs, and abused by door-opening Neanderthals.
Posting a video online can be relied to attract user comments to foster a feeling of mutual good-will among road users, and never, ever to provoke comments of the ‘LOL thats sooo funy I hope U dy!!!’ variety.
Even if, by some chance, a helmet cam records a ride entirely un-punctuated by threats, violence and swearing, there is still a danger that someone will be forced to watch it.
Watching someone else’s training ride in full, in real time is quite exceptionally boring, especially if they sit beside you and provide a running commentary. Curiously the only thing in the universe that’s actually less interesting than the visual without the effort is the effort without the visual, that is, turbo training.
If anyone would like to try to work out how combining the two dullest activities in the world produces one of the best, there is a very small research grant available from this column.
I have had several emails contesting my contention that cyclists cannot dance. Typical is this one, from Ellie Alexander, ‘I dance. I enjoy it immensely, and like to think I’m rather good at it.’ It was, however spoiled as a debating coup by an opening line that reads, ‘While I’m not a cyclist myself, my husband is.’
I maintain that cyclists cannot dance. In fact I think I’ve finally found a working definition of what constitutes a sport. If a star performer from any activity gets past week six of Strictly Come Dancing, then the activity is not a sport. So that’s cricket, gymnastics and hurdling taken care of. Don’t let us down, Victoria.