This past week you will have noticed a strange creature lumbering along the side of the road at the speed of a push mower. The bit of the road where you normally are. A life form, more gifted in girth, and facial rouge than the conventional occupant of the rolling kerb. Glorious natural hair is in abundance, on both legs.
These individuals are clothed in anything from running shorts, to the complete 1991 Carrera Squad outfit. Some are bare chested, some painted in football tops, and some are squeezed into a cycling jersey that fitted their last bike spin, some 10 kgs and 12 years ago.
The bikes, cables firing vertically out of brake levers, 10PSI in tyres and any bottle but the right one. A 6-speed chain, welded into the 13 sprocket for a painful, difficult to stay vertical, 25 revs a minute. Frames: too big, too small, too long and always with the saddle so high, the hips either seesaw like a hookers underwear, or so low the knees are earrings.
The tell tale line of sweat filled underwear is visible thru the Lycra and later will announce to the wearer its presence, in other ways. Helmet is on backwards or on the handlebars. Gloves are gardening or ski. A mess but to the untrained eye they look like you and I. A cyclist.
These people are have been inspired by the Tour de France on the television in the same way Wimbledon busts out rackets and the dogs ball. Inspired by the superhuman efforts of our heroes and the sheer beauty of an efficient, professional cyclist, and thought to themselves “ I’m going for a spin”
They have made the effort to relive a youthful past, or borrow a bike and give it a go.
We might feel distant from these creatures; but they are our sports future. They could be the father of a champion or the sale of a new machine that keeps the local bike shop open. They are Growth, of the finest, toughest sport in the world and are welcome to space on the side of the road in all their fluorescent, wheezing beauty.
Our condescending view is that these ‘freds’, beginners, plebs look like a stale scone to our chocolate muffin. Sadly, put most of us beside a professional cyclist and we look like a slice of white bread beside a wedding cake. They / us are all bikers, different sizes, efficiencies, but brothers and sisters in the saddle.
And for that very reason, it is why the sport must be on its best behaviour in the month of July. “I’m going for a spin” might not happen if another drugs scandal kills the image of a hero and makes him look life a thief. We too have our part to play: wave hello, raise a finger of acknowledgement or a nod of recognition when passing. Welcome that keen, green wonder to our biking tribe. The hairy creature at the side of the road, wobbling, dressed in trainers and a red face, is only a year and a friendly cycling club away from becoming you and I. Most cycling magazines double their sales in July. If our sport can improve, and encourage this interest – we all will win.
I’m off for a spin with my helmet facing the correct way, but in my 1987 La vie Claire woollen jersey, just to show commaradeship.