We did the Première Manche - the first round - of A Travers riding across France from Dieppe to Marseille in the summer of 2009, and it was the original inspiration for this blog. The plan to put the 'band back together again' for another go in 2013 for the second installment fell on stoney ground, with life just getting in the way for too many of us, much to our disappointment. However, our enthusiasm for the bike remains undimmed, and so I'll keep posting my thoughts on the diverse and beautiful facets of the sport regardless. But there's bound to be another big 'adventure ride' coming soon - quite possibly in Italy - so potentially a name change too: Attraverso l'Italia in Bicicletta anyone?



Friday, 3 January 2014

Saying Hello Is Waving Goodbye

Right fellow cyclists: if Beryl Burton can hand up a bloody jelly baby to the male competitor she caught in a 1967 12-hour event (whilst he was en-route to breaking the men's competition record), then I'm pretty sure you can acknowledge the existence of other riders as they nod, wave or shout hello to you as your paths cross out on the road. Certainly this anti-social trend has been well documented in other blog articles and fora, but recent incidents have really troubled me: what's happening to the friendly sport I took up in the early 80s, the refreshingly inclusive pastime rather than badly-taught exclusive ones I endured at school? I'm seriously not unrealistically nostalgic for some rose-tinted ideal of what cycling probably was in the post-war period - as depicted in 'Spinning Wheels' or this CTC Cyclists Special - but really: at one end of the scale not acknowledging other bike riders out on the road is, in my view, just plain rude, regardless whether they're 'newbies' or old hands; at the other, experienced riders like me and Rohan Dubash, aka Doctor D, are fed up of 'wannabe' racers silently speeding past us, so close we almost collide, in an attempt to, what, intimidate us with how quick and 'pro' they are? How good their bike handling would be in the tightly-packed peloton? What's going on here? These people are as disrespectful - and potentially dangerous - as those idiot motorists we have to endure so frequently.

If Alberto can make time for a wave, then what's stopping you?
Clearly cycling, with its new-found popularity and achingly trendy rock-n-roll status in the nation's sporting zeitgeitst, has forgotten its traditional, urbane roots, and has modernised, leaving me trailing in its slipstream. The dwindling traditional club scene as a place to learn, with clubmen and women taking youngsters under their protective wings and schooling them in the art of cycling etiquette and respect, is undoubtedly viewed now as an unfashionable anachronism, of another era, even a little bit odd. Nowdays it seems everything we do or say or wear is a reflection of how successful we are as an individual, and compromising this image in any way is seen as a weakness; maybe good-old fashioned manners, are, well, just a little too old fashioned too. You only have to hang around ambitious middle managers in any London-based agency to see this rather sad scene being acted out on a daily basis, and I've had enough exposure in that yuppie rat-race world to know that it's these types that are being increasingly drawn into a sport I'd argue they don't really 'get': hyper-competitive self-absorbed MAMILs out on the their £10K black plastic 'stealth' bikes on a Sunday, where every ride is a race. How thoroughly modern. And rubbish.

In the past you gained all the respect you'd need from fellow racers by having a clean bike with gleaming chrome, well-tanned, skinny shaven legs, a bit of mileage-induced muscle definition complimented by some crisp white socks of a certain length, and a friendly demeanour to match. In winter - the social season as it was rightly known - it'd be long rides chatting to your mates and a stop at a café for more banter. We knew there was a time to be serious and focussed, and you'd let the legs do the talking when the time was appropriate: during the season in races, and not out on a ride through the lanes in December and January. Clearly all these riders I get no response from are on coach-planned wattage-controlled training rides with such rabid focus on attaining their personal goals that they simply cannot be distracted.

Whilst it's surely a good thing that people are taking up cycling in this country in record numbers, out on the road it's clearly not all positive progress on the conviviality front. I take the Velominati Rules in the tongue-in-cheek spirit I believe they were intended, but it seems there are too many riders out there that just don't understand cycling, what it's fundamentally about and what always made it so very special and different from other sports in the first place. That marvellous sense of fraternity has been rapidly eroded in the individualistic me-first-selfie-generation, when cycling, in my view, had always been about belonging, of having fun together when riding, racing, and simply enjoying ourselves. 

So guys (and there are an increasing number of unfriendly hyper-focussed women out there too), save the 'race face' for racing, and instead smile, wave, say hello and look like you're actually enjoying yourselves when you're lucky enough to be out riding your bike. Remember, six of us were killed in the last month in London, so stop acting like a bunch of prima ballerinas, as Ken would say, and take time to say hello to each other. It might be the last time.