BL16 - Page 27

aybe I’m making lazy
assumptions, but I’m
guessing that few
Boisdale regulars are
also cycling enthusiasts. I suspect
that you’re more likely to spend
your Sundays cursing a slowmoving peloton from behind the
wheel of your Land Rover than to
wear Lycra yourself – although it is
appealingly stretchy and doesn’t
mind if you ordered Boisdale’s
chateaubriand-for-two just for you.
I am a Boisdale regular, and
a glutton. The waiting staff know
to bring me a plunger as well as the
regular cutlery, the better to
foie-gras myself on Ranald’s haggis.
But this columnist is a fifth
columnist. I am also a cyclist, and
the gluttony and the cycling permit
and encourage each other.
It irritates me when my fellow
members of the press refer to
“motorists” as if they were some
put-upon minority rather than the
vast majority of the country.
“Motorists hit with new tax!”
scream the headlines, but with
more than 30 million cars on
Britain’s roads, aren’t motorists just
most of us? Non-cyclists and
newspapers tend to see “cyclists”
in the same way – as one tribe.
In fact, the explosion in the
sport’s popularity in this country,
encouraged by our domination of
Olympic cycling and the Tour de
France and, quite noticeably, by the
7/7 terror attacks – which forced
many London commuters onto two
wheels, who then stayed there –
means that cycling is now a mass
activity, and its participants simply
reflective of society as a whole.
This is both good and bad. I
welcome the growth and popularity
of a sport I have loved for thirty
years. But we “real” cyclists are as
tribal and as judgemental as anyone
else. A group of cyclists called The
Velominati (I’m not kidding) have
created a list known as “The Rules”
that defines with obsessive
precision how “real” cyclists
should dress and behave, including
always shaving your legs, and
maintaining sharp “tan lines”
between your exposed, nut-brown
limbs and your pallid everything
A haggis-loving glutton and petrolhead
by day, our writer has become a legshaving signatory of that weirdest of
subcultures: hardcore cyclists
Fre e l a n ce c ar
jour n a li s t , B o i sda le
L i fe co n t r i b u t i ng
e d i t or
else. Those of us who follow The
Rules are cyclists. Everyone else is
just a person on a bicycle.
You are far more likely to be
irritated by a person on a bicycle
than a proper cyclist. A chav in a
hoody riding down a pavement
while texting is not a cyclist; he just
happens to be on a bicycle, possibly
stolen from an actual cyclist. I
particularly rue the influx of alpha
males of late-middle age who, if
they hadn’t taken up cycling,
would otherwise have been boring
people at a golf club bar. They
might look like cyclists to you, but
with their ten-grand bikes and
ten-kilo paunches, we know they’re
not. You see them in Richmond
Park in the evenings and on the
Surrey Hills at the weekends:
Well-to-do lawyers, solicitors and
accountants dressed entirely by
upmarket cycling clothier Rapha,
their heads down, failing to
acknowledge other riders as real
cyclists would, and going rather
more slowly than the Lance-face
they put on would suggest.
If you get stuck behind a long,
strung-out chain of cyclists that is
impossible to pass, they’ll be such
recent converts. Proper cyclists ride
fast and in close formation when in
groups, two abreast and inches off
each other’s wheels, thus halving
the distance required to overtake
them. But your irritation at any
delay should be tempered by the
knowledge that you are less likely
to be paying for the coronary care in
later years of those whose lumpen,
Lycra-clad arses you are stuck
behind. A study published in the
British Medical Journal in 2017
involving a quarter of a million
people found that cycling to work
cuts the risk of developing cancer
and cardiovascular disease by 45
per cent compared to commuting
by car or public transport.
Countless other studies confirm the
benefits. With obesity expected to
cost the NHS £10bn and the wider
economy £50bn by 2050, cycling’s
savings outweigh its irritations.
I am one of those statistics.
Although I have always been both
cyclist and glutton, at one time the
gluttony dominated and I ballooned
to 18 stone. After rebalancing the
two and with cycling as my only
exercise, I’m now 13 stone with a
31-inch waist at age 44.
The sport that I have loved since
I was a kid will serve me well in old
age too. I once got chatting with
three cyclists who had stopped on
the lane outside my house. The
youngest was 77 and the oldest 81.
They were lean and fit and happy.
Their legs were smooth, as real
cyclists’ should be, but I was too
polite to ask them whether they
still had to shave them or had just
gone bald there. They’d only
stopped to allow “the kid” to catch
up. He soon appeared, puffing
slightly and a mere 65. This, I
reflected, was the kind of old man
I’d like to be: Still alive, still
cycling, and still eating as much
of Ranald’s haggis as I like.

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