True cyclists don’t need anything as flimsy as a love of cycling to bolster their self-identity, say Dr Hutch
As our planet thunders into the abyss of over-exploitation, pollution, food shortage and natural disaster, it will be a comfort to know that one thing we will never run short of is cycling website and magazine features headed, “You know you’re a cyclist when…”
I am not entirely free of blame myself. The problem is that it’s such a tempting subject — it’s always popular because it is invariably a sort of group humble-brag — you know you’re a cyclist when… your enormous thighs mean you can’t buy trousers that fit.
Or when… your bike is worth more than your car. Or when… you tell your family you have to work late, but instead take the long route home.
A more honest feature would include things like, you know you’re a cyclist when you’re a terrible parent. Or when people try to avoid getting trapped in a conversation with you because they know you’re going to talk to them about carbon-fibre.
Or when your partner demands a divorce because you appear to think that chasing Strava segments is a viable long-term career option (“Uh-oh — your best friend just stole your other half”).
But there’s another question. How would you know if you’re not a cyclist at all? How would you know if you’re really a traction-engine enthusiast who’s in desperate need of hobby reassignment surgery?
I sometimes wonder myself. There have been spring Sunday afternoons when I turned on Eurosport, and thought, “Oh for God’s sake, they can’t all be ‘Classics’.”
A couple of weekends ago I found myself almost tempted to wait for the highlights of Milan-San Remo rather than watch the full live coverage. I stayed strong, but still, is wondering, “Are there better things to do for five hours on a Saturday afternoon than listen to all the people who live inside commentator Carlton Kirby as they wrestle for control?” the moment when you should realise you’re not a cyclist?
Blofeld beats Boris
There are other things. Sometimes, when I’m catching up with a rider on the road, I turn off before I get to them to avoid the inevitable impromptu burn-up. I’m meant to do the opposite. And, just occasionally, I decide I’d rather not suffer after all, and ride up the hill at a nice moderate pace.
I still call the ‘Tour of Flanders’ the ‘Tour of Flanders’ — I don’t try to say it in Flemish. I don’t fetishise cake. I have next to no interest in hallucinogenic Belgian monk-beers. Despite having lived in London for several weeks now, I’m not yet obsessed by the Holy Trinity of the London Cyclist, namely Rapha, Box Hill, and coffee made by men with beards and served tepid in a cup without a handle.
Perhaps worst of all, sometimes I don’t ride even when I have the chance. When I mentioned on Twitter a week or two back that I’d met the super-posh Henry Blofeld from Test Match Special on a London bus, I expected the replies that said, “What was Henry Blofeld doing on a bus?” But I got just as many saying, “What were you doing on a bus?” Fair point.
I could have ridden to where I was going. I just fancied getting the bus. I can only apologise.
(If I’d gone by bike I’d probably have met Boris Johnson rather than Blowers, and that seems like a risk no one should have to take.)
All the same, I’m going to assert that I’m a bike rider. I think I’d be a cyclist even if I didn’t ride at all. I think I’d be a cyclist even if I despised bicycles. I don’t think I could be normal now if I tried. You know you’re a cyclist when… damn it, you just know.