Episode 212. Reebok Evolve. (Part 3).

Okay folks, in this little update I'll probably be babbling more about us, the cyclist, rather than the wonderful Reebok Evolve.

Make no mistake this bike is far better than it has any right to be. I think that although I'm getting close to getting it as good as it can be, further fettling will still be required. At some point I may even go as far as to squirt some paint on the thing... Maybe.

But anyway, as some of you long term sufferers may know when I'm out and about on my bike I do tend to do a lot of thinking, especially if I'm on my own, and the woody trail is empty. This day was one of those days. I had previously been engaged in a conversation with one of my fat, and unfit friends who is, lets just say anti-cyclist. This guy is a taxi driver, and frankly he hates cyclists, and anyone who is into bikes. We do talk, but when I'm on my bike I think he'd be more than happy to knock me off if he thought he could get away with it. Further more, joining the conversation was another fat, and unfit friend, who happens to be a delivery driver. Now this guy wants to get into cycling, but tells me that he's put off by having to go out and buy all the gear, only to be the most hated person on the road. I asked them both what they meant, and pretty soon it became evident that they were not talking about the regular cyclist like you and I as such, what they were on about were the guys that take a more professional outlook to cycling, the guys out there riding two, three, four, or more abreast setting their personal best times with no thought given to other road users. I'm going to generalise here, so if you happen to fit this description, but don't do these things, then I'm sorry. But I'm talking about the lycra-clad road, and for that matter off road warriors. You know the people, they're out on their bikes, and completely oblivious to what's going on around them.

I thought about this, and what my friends had said about this type of cyclist, and so I thought that maybe I should look deeper into this, and so I asked a load of my other friends, both cyclists, and non-cyclists what they thought. The feeling was pretty much mutual, cyclists are the scum of the road! (And also apparently the scum off the road as well!) The biggest gripe seems to be our total dis-regard for other road users, the law, or indeed everyone, and anyone else. By all accounts all cyclists are counts, although I think most of my friends pronounced the word without the 'o' in it. And we're all banded in with the same group, you've got a bike, any bike, then you're a count. Irrespective if you're a super fit lycra clad fella setting their personal best on their ultra light racing bike, or some fat middle aged fella on an old mountain bike. We all get tarred with the same brush... Counts! Stand by, as I think I'm going to have a bit of a whinge.

The thing is, as cyclists we don't help ourselves really. Although I think that people like you and I, who are riding for the fun of it, rather than trying to set some sort of personal best do seem to have a different attitude to cycling, we still get banded in with the rest. Back in 2019 I spoke a fair bit about a group of people, who like myself were more into eating pies and cakes, than cycling. I referred to these people who I did not know personally as 'Fat club', and I am definitely a member of fat club, I'm probably the founding member of it. However, I got to thinking the other day that I'd not seen any other members of fat club for a really long time. Fit club seems to be out in spades, they race passed me on my little route at what seems to be about 100mph in their skin tight lycra! But where are my people, where are the pie eaters? Fat club, where are you? 

I even started to lay in bed awake thinking about where they were, what are they doing? Have they all lost weight and gone on to be fully fledged members of fit club? Am I still seeing them, but are they just all in lycra now instead of jeans and T-shirts, so I just don't recognise them? To an extent, I kinda hoped they were, but I had to know. So I went out to my regular route where I used to see them all, and just slowly cruised up and down for the best part of two hours, hoping that at some point some of them would show up.

As I cruised up and down I did get to thinking that actually, there's a few people, not just cyclists that I'd not seen in a while, but then I saw the first one. Captain Mainwaring! Of all the people I used to see regularly he was the one I was least hoping to meet. Although, that being said I had been thinking about him lately, and even wondering if he was still, well, alive as he's quite old. Now then, it's safe to say that Captain Mainwaring hates cyclists, all cyclists! The first time I encountered him was when he actually hit me with his walking stick, and it wasn't a little tap either. He cracked me with his walking stick, really hard across my thigh, WHACK!!!! It was a cold morning, and I was a little bit wet, so to say that it hurt would be an understatement. He may be old but he sure can hit! I stopped, parked my bike, and walked back towards him, he raised his stick in the air, and swiped it towards me. I grabbed it, snatched it out of his hand, and in one single movement tossed it into the river! "Thats it!" He said, "I'm calling the police! I can't walk without my stick, and you've attacked me!" I said that this was the first thing he'd said that made any sense, because as wrong as it probably was for me to grab his stick, and chuck it in the river, the Police would probably take an even dimmer view on someone that actually hits cyclists with a stick as they pass them. Well that was back in 2018 I think, but he's got no less angry, and sure enough, as I approached him he started yelling at me. I decided to stop before getting to him and risking another whack, but I asked him what his problem was. The first thing he said was that he remembered me, I threw his walking stick into the river! I said I remembered him too, he hit me with a stick so hard that I even had a bit of a cry! But anyway, the problem he said, was us young fellas (I'm mid fifties so any time someone refers to me as a young fella is a win in my book!) But apparently we race up and down the canal path at dangerous speeds, and someones gonna get hurt, he went on to say that he'd even been knocked over a couple of times. So I guess I can kinda understand his anger to a degree. But I explained that we're not all riding fast, however in his eyes we're all as bad as one another. Hmm, like me, generalising a bit, but I can see his point.

Then I saw Happy Mike, much like Captain Mainwaring I used to see Happy Mike all the time. It seemed to me that no matter what time I went for my ride he would be sitting next to his racing bike on a bench beside the path, and usually smoking weed. Now, Happy Mike is part of the lycra clad racing bike brigade, or atleast I think he probably was back in the seventies. But these days he's probably in his seventies, however he still rides an old, but in very good condition steel racing bike, and he does wear the lycra, although, much like his bike it has a very much vintage look about it. My feeling is that his racing days are behind him as when I have seen him riding his racing bike, he is, much like myself, cruising. I was going to stop and see what he'd been up to lately as I'd not seen him, but he was on his phone talking, so I left him to it.

I'd all but given up the hope of seeing anyone else from fat club, although I had been scanning the members of fit club as they raced by looking for anyone I might sort of recognise, but no luck. But then I saw her, Dawn French. No, not the actual Dawn French, but a woman that looks kinda like her. I'll be honest, I'd looked at her quite a few times back when fat club seemed to be in full swing as she's quite attractive, I've just never got around to talking to her as most often we're heading in opposite directions. It would just be a case of 'Morning' and a wave as we passed, which is what I do to pretty much all other cyclists. However this day was different, this day we were traveling in the same direction. So we had a bit of a chat, and I asked her why I'd not seen her riding lately. She told me that she'd been not riding alongside the canal so much as she found it too busy, and she felt that she was often in the way. I asked her who she was in the way of? Faster cyclists she said. Yep, I said, I can see your point, I have felt in the way too as I plod along.

So with all this in mind as I rode through the woods for the most part alone, I got to thinking that as a group, we're probably not the most liked bunch of people. Other people, especially other road users who don't ride think that we're all out cycling in the middle of the road, and holding them up as they drive along. This is certainly the opinion of most of my motorist friends. I realise that this is again generalising, and is more a case of one bad apple spoiling the whole barrel, but when you see three or four cyclists riding across the width of the road and you just want to get by in your car it can be more than a little infuriating.

I've been there myself, driving along in my car, crawling along the road behind three or four people riding three or four abreast having a nice chat with one another while being totally oblivious to the traffic build up behind them. To be honest, nine times out of ten it does seem to be the lycra clad brigade that seem to be the biggest sinners, but like I said before, we all get tarred with the same damn brush. I am in no way saying that my cycling is the best in the world, or even the most legal, like the rest of you I have jumped the occasional red light, but atleast I stop and make sure it's all clear first, not just race across presumably hoping for the best. The other thing is, and this is one of my personal gripes too as I'm sure you've noticed, don't take up the whole road width when you're riding with your mates, it doesn't endear us to other road users. I know we 'allowed' to ride in the middle of the lane, but in reality riding about 12"-18" from the kerb is usually more than enough space. I know that you're still going to get a few motorists who come by real fast, and real close, these people are the real counts of the road, even though they're probably the ones saying that we are.

The other thing is, to outsiders it would appear that we're not a very inviting group. I have friends who have said that they've thought about going cycling but they're put off the idea as they don't want to go out and wear weird clothes looking like a knobber. I'll be honest, looking at what more of my fashion challenged friends wear that should be the least of their worries, but whatever. I tell them that they don't need to, just get a bike, a cheap bike, any bike, and ride in your jeans and T-shirt like we did when we were kids. It's epic. I'm hoping that with the dawn of the Summer Holidays upon us there will be a few more of us hitting the trails for fun with our kids, and hopefully when the holidays end they will keep on riding as they've found they enjoy it too. It doesn't matter what you ride, what you wear, just get out there and ride. Don't take it too seriously, enjoy yourself, it's fun! Oh, and most of all, try to be aware of your surroundings, especially other road users. I know we have the right of way, but you don't need to be in the middle of the road holding up other motorists. Remember, an angry idiot in a car is going to come off far better than some twit on a bike that knows his rights. Sorry for the long winded whinging.

Until next time, have a great day gang... Lets ride!