Home
Can cycling stop being popular please?

Can you all just bugger off? All of you. Swelling the roads with rides and sportives and pedaling with friends and having fun on bikes. Bugger off please and leave me alone.

Can I have Cycling back please? Cycling was My Thing and now Everybody’s bloody doing it. It’s lost a little bit of the Special for me. Actually, quite a lot.

I was that Weird Bloke in the street that rode a bike, the thing that I surely should have grown out of by now? As a child I was shit at most sport; I was always picked close to last for games, I played on the left wing in football purely because I was left-footed not because of any perceived skill at elegantly floating the ball into the box, I’ve scored one memorable goal, which bizarrely was from the right wing. My football career pretty much ended right there, my rugby career lasted exactly one game. I did a lot of being a linesman and jotting down the scores at the cricket. Other things that I could do quietly away from everyone else I quite enjoyed; squash, shooting, if I could bunk off on a Wednesday afternoon and play tennis with my equally team-phobic mate when no-one was watching that was fun too. I really enjoyed Fives, because not many people knew what that was. You have no idea what Fives is do you? Yes, I went to the type of school that did shooting and Fives.

When I was a kid riding a bike was just something that everybody did, no big deal, you rode to the shops for sweets and comics, you pedaled round to your mates, you mucked around on bikes with those mates. There were three channels on the TV, and they all turned off in the afternoon, there were no video games, well, maybe ping-pong if you were posh, there was definitely no internet, entertainment options were few so you made it up yourself. It was mostly bike related. In that respect I never actually ‘took up’ cycling in the way people self-righteously do nowadays, I just didn’t stop doing it, it just slowly and imperceptibly came to take over larger chunks of my life. When I wasn’t making Airfix kits if it was raining. The first crappy second-hand bike gave way to a nicer but still cheap new bike, which turned into the first proper grown up bike, which became a nicer bike, and onwards and upwards through a lifetime of different bikes ridden in increasing distances away from home and then to various places around the world. A natural progression rather than a damascene revelation and a fat credit card.

So Cycling became the Thing I did. I loved it because I didn’t need anybody else to do it with, I’m not so good at team sports remember. It became my saviour. My escape. It fed into my happiness at being alone with myself, it steered me away from people, it took me to the quiet places. These were my main reasons for cycling, fitness and countryside and then eating lots were positive yet fringe benefits. I also didn’t need to join a club although I was aware that this was an option, I’m not so good at group activities. I also didn’t need to go to a special place to do it, I could just leave the house and be there instantly. Cycling also took me into town, and to the shops, and round to friend’s houses, like it always had done, that never went away. It was handy like that.

But now cycling has become the Thing To Do and everyone’s doing it. And I hate it. I liked being that odd person that rode a bike, that adult who rode a bike, the one that must have a little something wrong with them. There was a bit of me that secretly enjoyed being the outsider. It made me Me. The bloke that was socially awkward at gatherings as it was made worse by not being able to make polite idle chat about football or cars or mortgages. I could talk at length about all about the wonderful places a bicycle took me but instead there was the “Did you really cycle all that way?” when “all that way” was less than ten miles. The “Do you really shave your legs?”, “Have you done the London to Brighton/Are you in the Tour de France?” and the gentle explaining of things without being boring I had to do. And pedaling home early. All that way.

I’m not the odd outlier any more, I’m One Of Them. I’ve never wanted to be One Of Them, whoever the Them might be. Even if you’re not a cyclist you know what cycling is now, the secret is out, you know some of those funny French and Italian words that were once used to confuse and catch out the unwary. You understand the Tour de France, well, bits of it, you can recognise Bradley Wiggins and Lance (sigh), and I will smile sweetly and nod at your knowledge and might obligingly correct you on a few salient points.

I may appear to be selfish, far from it, well maybe not that far. I’m really glad that you’ve discovered cycling, isn’t it bloody great? And I’m happy that there are so many of you now and it’s become a mainstream activity, and that the sport gets the kind of coverage and everyday exposure that cycling could only dream about a very short while ago. And you can now buy an awful lot of t-shirts and nick-nacks with Cycling on. Smashing. I’m delighted that as more people cycle the more it will become normalized and hopefully something that more people just do day-to-day rather than being that silly druggy sport that needs funny tight clothes where you can see all their bits, or a way of getting about if you can’t afford a car. I love all of this, it’s something I’ve been quietly waiting to happen for years, but now it’s here I don’t like it. These are my feelings, don’t confuse them with reasoning.

What I miss is what felt like an essential part of me. I was a little bit different and this is slowly being dissolved away with each new cycling convert. I quietly hate you all for this. Well, some of you are probably very nice, and I will imperceptibly raise my hand off the bars in subtle acknowledgement as you pass the other way, but could you all just sod off? Leave me alone.

 

Until then I’ll just have to ride my bike quietly by myself on Tuesday afternoons. Or take up Fives again.

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

48 comments

Avatar
wycombewheeler [1364 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes
gazzaputt wrote:

I still love riding my bike. I love the solace of it to be honest. I'd like that back to.

The solace is still there. I rode 140 miles to Avebury and back in December. Hardly passed any bikes. Most of those were a family that had ridden to the same destination. Stay away from the stereotype places like box hill and go out when it is grey rather than sunny.

Avatar
wycombewheeler [1364 posts] 3 years ago
1 like
gazzaputt wrote:

I still love riding my bike. I love the solace of it to be honest. I'd like that back to.

The solace is still there. I rode 140 miles to Avebury and back in December. Hardly passed any bikes. Most of those were a family that had ridden to the same destination. Stay away from the stereotype places like box hill and go out when it is grey rather than sunny.

Avatar
mmag1 [31 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I share you pain Jo. Miss the "get off and milk it" and "can you ride tandem" comments, being mocked by classmates and teachers and watching the red and blue jerseys slide out the back at the Worlds. Also didn't have to listen to Brailsford spouting MBA bollocks back in the 70's.

Avatar
philtregear [135 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes

a load of pretentious nonsense IMO

Avatar
Andybris [10 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Great read Jo

Nail on the head!

Avatar
anders7535 [5 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

You posted this article 3 days ago, so as usual I'm a bit late on the scene.

I love to get on my bike and ride - I don't want to do it with anyone else, I don't want to talk to anyone else about it. My bike isn't great it just gets me were I want to go - which is either to work, or to home. I live less than 3 miles from work but I average 50 miles a week because I like to ride my bike - on my own.

There are advantages to having more people riding - drivers are now more aware of cyclists. They are more aware of the mistakes we make too! I'm not in a club, I don't go out cycling at the weekends, I don't ride that far, I don't ride that fast.

Just me and my bike

 

Avatar
J90 [430 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

It's called change. There isn't even that many cyclists about, where are you based? London?

Avatar
mcvw [10 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Haha! Sorry, I couldn't resist  4 Appropriate in more ways than one too!!

I used to be a bit like you Jo - very much in some ways (left footed - played left wing, left mid, left back. You name it, anywhere on the left!) However, my footballing days have lasted somewhat longer than yours - and at the ripe old age of 46 (*cough* nearly 47!) I'm still playing twice a week - if I can squeeze a game in amongst my cycling that is!

I was a paper boy in my mid teens and I religiously bought, borrowed (even stole!) MBUK - mostly for your 'Mint Sauce' strip - and I still have MBUK/Mint cuttings/sticker sheets about my house (tho' now tucked away in the loft - in the box with old 'NME' and 'Melody Makers'). I was so inspired by Mint and MBUK that I threw off my MTB training wheels and bought my Kona! A hefty investment back in those days, but one I'd never regret! I used to ride that Kona everywhere ! However living near Heathrow and riding to work in Chobham, those rumbly tyres were soon switched to the semi-slicks of commuterville  2

But, those cycling seeds were firmly planted! And in 1987 whilst drinking beer in Majorca, my road cycling epiphany happened - watching Steven Roche win the TdF!

Those seeds were obviously of the endurance/climbing variety as it took a number of years for them to break the surface - but they established themselves and began to wind their way via footy, cricket, going to gigs, drinking more beer and chasing girls. Not surprisingly it took them a while to flourish - but, flourish they did, and I found 'converting to a roadie' nowhere near as boring as I imagined it!

So, in summary. I kinda am one of those that you now write about. But I'm proud to be. And in any case, you're probably more to blame for it than most! Thanks Jo, I owe you one  4

 

Baaaaaaa!!

Avatar
Paul__M [52 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

A lot of that's familiar , but now I have a recumbent HR in the fleet becoming an outsider is a simple garage choice.

Avatar
arfa [859 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Never really worried too much about what other people think, whether as an "in or out" group. Never joined or ridden with a club, mostly train solo and never really found a problem with "hordes of cyclists" and I live in London. There's plenty of other places to ride other than richmond/regent park and plenty of other hills other than box hill. Only ever done one sportive (not my thing).

Best time of the day to ride for solitude is dawn, can't beat it. Another way is to go off road, I've done London to Brighton and not seen any other cyclists on the route.

If you really want to find solitude and hills, go and ride on the B roads and lanes of the Yorkshire moors, sometimes the only company you'll get are the animals roaming the moors. Don't tell everyone though, although I suspect this year's tour de Yorkshire will put it on the map for many  3

Avatar
SuperG [126 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Agree with 'arfa', dawn is your friend  1

Just dont go riding on a Sunday!

 

 

Avatar
whobiggs [171 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I can relate to all of that except the "success" at other sports!

Avatar
mooseman [87 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Exactly (but without the Fives in my past). I know I should know better and that it doesn't really matter but I still get that slightly disappointed feeling when I spot another rider on 'my' favorite lanes who I haven't personally invited to join me there.

I comsole myself with the fact that they are quite possibly 'that kind of rider' as my lovely wife describes many we see out and about and as Jo says "I will imperceptibly raise my hand off the bars in subtle acknowledgement as you pass the other way.." but maybe more.

Avatar
davel [2722 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Someone who makes money from writing about cycling, and others who have joined a cycling forum, about cycling, complain about the popularity of cycling. Tongue in cheek, natch.

There are some 'ironic', conflicted people about.

Avatar
Martin Thomas [385 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes
Avatar
PhilRuss [407 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

[[[[[  What----me, weirdo? Not to me, I'm not. In fact, I always  saw OTHERS as weird if, fit young & healthy, they preferred buses, tubes, and cars rather than bikes, to get around London....or around pretty much anywhere else. And I'm sure I've bored the proverbial pants off loads of people while trying to convert them to the cause, and over the years  I have actually  succeeded in infecting a few with my obsession, even way back in those not-so-distant days when cycling was still considered...er...weird.  

           On the other hand, there are now far too many of the buggers about!  Yer all getting in me way, innit?!  Ah, well....as an ex-clubbie, I still feel part of the tribe, and hopefully those oafs and scrubbers currently lurching and wobbling around the roads will improve, and will perform immaculate trackstands at red traffic-lights, bunny-hops over sleeping policemen, and give cheery greetings to all.  Is that weird? No way.

P.R.  

    

    

Avatar
42coppi8 [8 posts] 4 days ago
1 like

All very true.

We played Fives at Peter Symonds School Winchester.

I was "punished" in the 50's by being made to do 5 mile cross country run instead of cricket, football, high and long jumps. Along the grass golf course path and then through the beech woods was so lovely through the seasons the punishment was a delight and kept both my legs and soul balanced.

Avatar
Rick_Rude [301 posts] 3 days ago
0 likes

A bit late to this but seeing as it's been resurrected....

I've always hated team sports. Solo activities for me all the way like guitar or piano....on my own, not in a band, if I record stuff I do the lot and use samples where needed. Nearest I've been to group activity was skateboarding. It was individual but you kind of got better as a group and learned stuff quicker. I'd never joing a cycling club though. I just don't like being tied down to stuff. Too much shouting seems to be involved as well.  

I have friends that cycle but I don't ride with them all the time, some are too fast, some too slow, some just not available much. Generally I just ride when I can for as long as I've got. Once you've got a family you've few selfish freedoms and even cycling comes with demands on when you're back as certain things must be done. Some days even the commute is nice release.

Peak cycle commuting on my route does seem to have passed though. There used to be 'regulars' you'd see but I'm lucky if one cyclist goes the other way this year. I remember looking at my Strava and quite a lot of people would have ridden the route that morning but now it's barely any. Maybe the Wiggins effect is truly over? Solitary cyclists rejoice.

Pages