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.