I love the monthly bike publication Cyclist. Suits my time in the saddle. Well written, great images. I switched my monthly subscription from Rouleur as the self-proclaimed tag line of “The world’s finest cycling magazine” began to irk. Imagine what you would think of a wedding guest who sat down beside you and said “Do you know I’m the best person here?” I don’t think a magazine or a wedding guest should have an ego. Rouleur is fantastic to print the images of our wonderful sport, but turn the page and you have the elitism of the sport. It’s the shite side of non waving, gotta have customized Dura-Ace on a 9k frame, made by a guy who still lives in East Berlin and weaves the carbon threads from ex-Soviet space suits.
It is not about the cost of a bicycle, it is about ‘the bike’-where a bike can take you physicially and ethereally. When the marketing of our sport overtakes the function of freedom and free time together, I pull the reserve shoot.
Who or What is best can only be expressed personally, never told. ‘My’ best cycling magazine, is the stunning Bahamontes. More art than comic. You must purchase Bahamontes, always when in Belgium, watching pro riders doing what they do best..with a beer, tired legs and a deep, engrained smile.
In Cyclist magazine, I love reading the ‘Big ride’ features. Where they send some lucky journalist off and force him to shave his (not often her) legs to ride around a big mountain in the sunshine. I love it because I want to be that cyclist riding the big hill under strange skies. The article writer has a local friend with local knowledge and a showroom new pair of bikes. Every month I read it, it looks fantastic. After reading the odd particular inspirational article , I have found myself on Google Maps and subsequently researching the nearest airports to the pictured spin. Covid turned the monthly, nearly attainable, but seldom attained dream, into a delusion. And delusions are not healthy. I found myself fantasizing about biking elsewhere, in taller or hotter lands. It was eating away at my own biking. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “comparison, is the thief of joy”. And she was right.
On cycling trips away, you come across Johnny also riding to summit the climb and Johnny was so funny. You take 10 pictures together and become blood brothers. Johnny isn’t that funny. Johnny has only 4 stories, and you’ve heard all of them on that first spin. You meet Steve for a spin every week and Steve has 7 stories and yes, you have heard all of them, but you are in 4 of them. So can reminisce together. You have no pictures with Steve but have met him every Sunday for 8 years. Steve will help you fix your broken chain. Johnny will pretend not to hear the snap.
I am going to send a proposal to the editor of Cyclist about adding a monthly series of articles called Small Rides to be included in the magazine, just after the wondrous BigRides articles, to counterbalance our desires. Small Rides follows normal bikers around their favourite spins which they do when they have the day off work. Because small rides are real. Small rides get you to the coffee shop where someone knows your name- past the place where you punctured 6 years ago and Steve gave you a tube. Small rides are ridden so often, you know every rise and how to avoid every pothole. Your eyes smile when you pass the hedge where you won the group sprint or grimace at the corner you were dropped, all alone. Small rides are familiar and lovely, they make up 95% of your cycling life. Roads and routes where your tyre tracks are well-worn in hot melted tar and leave a black line through fresh white snow.
There is comfort in doing a hill interval and knowing you can turn at the red gate…in 12 seconds time, because you have done it 200 times.
These roads are your saddle life. What you do every week. So I propose we celebrate the 51.5 weeks of the year that you’re out with the club, your friends and over well ridden paths. The same people on the same circuits is life, real life and not the two days you were on an alpine climb with that boring fella Johnny.