Anyone out there that has built up a photofit of your humble author almost certainly would not have me down as a natural when it comes to all things cycling. And you’d be bang on the money, to be fair: the booze-sodden carcass I carry around with me is probably best suited to more sedentary activities such as bee-keeping or G4S security. So imagine my surprise when the exact same bicycle I’d had stolen in 2004 appeared in my eBay search field the other day. In Huddersfield, no less. And despite my advancing years and appalling loss of flexibility in the lumbar region, I decided it was to be mine. Which indeed it was: Huzzah!
Now, if it hasn’t already come to your attention, a lot has changed since 2004. Gone are the days when you could rock up at your local bike shop, stick your fag out in the plant pot outside and make your purchase without a hint of embarrassment about jeans being tucked into socks. Not any more. Bike shops aren’t even called bike shops. They are Performance Centres, where every nuance of your basic humanity is considered a weakness, to be overcome with specialist assistance from a Wiggly Braggins-a-like, employed to seek out your achilles heel and exploit it ruthlessly. Sore knees? Incorrectly fitted cleats. Sore arse? Spend £120+ and we’ll sort it. And don’t get me started on bad gash…
Anyway, I turned up at one of these places a couple of days ago, looking like the boy from the Hovis ads with added alcohol. Call me naive, but I thought it would be a quick in/out affair from which I’d come away with some fancy kit that would get the ladies clucking at work. Far from it. As I pushed my new steed through the door, wheezing with exhaustion from the 0.3 mile trek, a young lady whisked it away and thrust it into a vertical rack. As mild panic set in, I became aware of an even younger man, pedaling as if his life depended on it on some kind of vast treadmill, in front of which was a video screen displaying French byroads which he was virtually navigating. So distracted was I by all of this, I failed to notice the craggy Australian in bulging shorts looming ominously in front of me, there to help me get the most from my cycling experience. Clearly I was a curio to him (as he was to me) and for a brief while we stood there, locked into our very own Bateman moment.
I cracked first. Of course I did. Making a shoddy excuse, I shot out of the premises and onto terra firma. No sideburns, no kit, but at least some semblance of dignity. For no matter how hard they try, I shall never yield to the tyranny of Lycra. Never. And if I look a bit crap on the road, so be it.