A cyclist without a bike is a strange sight; waddling around in their impractical shoes, sheepishly conscious of the indignity of wearing lycra. Even in that designer Rapha jersey – and especially if you’re all togged up in Assos – you will look like a prize pillock to the general non-cycling population. And no, they’re not even impressed by the size of your calves.
So I suppose we can agree that to complete the look, no cyclist should leave home without accessorising their outfit with an actual bicycle. Which is a shame, because I hate them. They’re temperamental, highly strung, require constant pampering, demand to be adorned with expensive bits and bobs. Neglect your bike and it whines at you, it creaks and moans. It drags it’s heels, mangles gear shifts. The little bastards think this sport is all about THEM.
Well, I can assure them, it is certainly not. Those glossy centre fold spreads of whizzy carbon steeds in cycling magazines leave me cold. I fail to get aroused by talk of ’46-ton carbon’, ‘beefy bottom brackets’ and ‘asymmetric chainstays’. Much like in life, it’s the pretty ones that require all the fawning pampering and attention (The Damien Hirst-designed bike for Lance Armstrong is a prime example. As delicate as the butterflies squished into its frame, I bet even Lance doesn’t get much use out of it) – ugly brutish bikes will just plough on without complaint, suffering the mud and wet of winter, wanting only a squirt of oil and a hose down now and again in return for its efforts.
Admittedly however, my criteria of assessing a bike is based almost entirely on aesthetics (I’m shallow and superficial like that). Yes, Sky’s new Pinnerallo Dogmas have had the attention of more engineers and scientists than the Hadron Collider, but it looks like it’s made of jelly. In contrast, slickly engineered Cervelos look sharp and mean, ready to cut through the air like a hot knife through butter.
With so many team kits looking practically identical bikes are a useful way of identifying riders during a race. Obviously remembering their race numbers would be better, but I’m not that smart (yes, stupid as well as shallow and superficial. I’ve got a lot going for me).
Equally, a quick survey of the bikes lined up outside race HQ can you give you strong clues as to their owners identity. For example, a pristine vanity-machine with whizz-bang gizmos and deep section carbon wheels may suggest a rider with more money than time to train. Conversely, something plain and black with inexpensive components and a dirty chain will no doubt be owned by a dedicated natural athelete, gifted with cycling flair and majestic style, concerned with hard graft rather than showy bling. So watch out for him in the race – he’s very likely to be awesome. *Cough*