Not too long ago, calling oneself a cyclist conjured images of lurid colours, bulbous helmets and pasty white legs flapping around in ill-fitting spandex.
Cycling, after all, was for vegetarians, students and people too tight to drive to work everyday. No one actually rode for fun. The bicycle was simply a tool for linking A and B with minimal effort and cost.
When I started cycling, it was mountain biking that gripped me the instant I tried it and I’ve been utterly addicted ever since. I didn’t give a damn what I looked like, it was the feeling I got that pulled me in. That immense satisfaction of speed, freedom and exhilaration – knowing that that time I made it, and maybe next time I wouldn’t. It was the fastest, most fun way to see the countryside – and the quickest way to blat to the bike shop.
However, at some point something changed. I stopped being a lone voice in the wilderness and became the voice of reason.
I don’t know what did it – the whole green issue, the credit crunch, the terrible congestion which has crippled our biggest cities... No matter. As the industry reports continued growth in the face of the biggest recession we’ve seen for 60 years, it’s clear that people are catching on now.
These days cool people ride bikes. Keith Flint from The Prodigy rides a mountain bike, Pharell Williams part-owns the Brooklyn Machine Works bike company, that Duffy bird started an uproar when she went helmetless in the latest Coke advert riding a bike and Boris Johnson demonstrates, amusingly, how much he likes his, even if he is fond of jumping red lights and talking on his mobile at the same time. Bikes are on TV; bikes are in men’s monthlies listed as expensive and desirable ways of getting fit; and bike videos are infiltrating people’s inboxes on a daily basis.
Look at Danny MacAskill – the incredible talent of the Scottish trials rider has been championed by MBUK for some time, but when his latest video stormed YouTube recently the impact was there for everyone to see, with four million hits and growing. Even my petrol-head friends who scoff at bikes were hassling me to find out more. One of them, who simply must be part of the latest thing, even bought a bike off the back of it.
You see, bikes aren’t just tools for a job –they’re much more. Bikes get you places, get you fit, get you noticed and they get you an image.
A recent visit to Glentress left me open-mouthed at the sheer numbers of people getting into riding. The place was littered with kids and families, and it was refreshing to see not one bit of elitism from the high ability riders. Mountain biking seems evidently more tolerant and welcoming these days. Times are changing. Cycling is cool.
But while Top Shop is bustling with High Street cycling chic; the cool crew are clogging up Hoxton Square with their beards, stamps and fixies, and the roadie elite are being measured up for tailored £3k Rapha/Timothy Everest suits, I’ll be plugging away up hill and down dale with the biggest grin on my face doing something I’ve always thought was cool.
And more than likely, I’ll be doing it in a bulbous helmet, offensive shorts and lurid colours...