I suppose it’s the mild winter we’re having, but I’m astonished at the number of bike riders I’m seeing all over the place in my home town. Not just the number, but the variety too. There’s your retro cyclists (such as myself) on their old-school bikes, the practical cyclists on what ever bicycle (usually a slightly tatty mountain bike or hybrid) they happen to have, there’s the sporty ones in their Lycra with expensive-looking road bikes, the hooded masses with their ill-fitting BMXs to match their ill-fitting trousers, and the other day I saw a couple of mates on great big chopper thingies that looked like they’d come out of Mad Max.
These choppers were huge, easily the same length as the ones Hopper and Fonda rode in Easy Rider, but pedal-powered. They raised so many questions in my mind. Where does one store such a thing? Is it more or less stable as it rides along? How do you get over pedestrian crossings? I couldn’t resist breaking off from my Christmas shopping for a brief chat. “Well that one” said one of them, gesturing towards his friend’s bike, “is a mass-made thing that’s fairly common. This one’s unique. It was custom made by me and my dad,” he said with a mixture of pride and banter, his friend grinning lightheartedly. They liked the attention, and I gave their bikes a good look up and down. The custom bike had chains welded to the forks and a large skull motif fashioned out of sheet metal on the handlebars. They were quite a sight, and it was nice chatting with them, I’m kicking myself I didn’t ask for a photo.
I’ve seen more of the Lycra brigade over Christmas, presumably as it means they’ve got the time off to go out riding. I saw one unfortunate lady, out riding with what I presume was a boyfriend. He’d crossed over a crossroads but she had to stop suddenly for a car, and not having her pedal unclipped she came to a halt and, quite slowly at first, toppled right over on to her side, hitting the Tarmac with a decided crash. Poor thing, I don’t wish to sound mean but it just looked so damn funny! I stifled a giggle while she recovered herself and once I had established she was ok and was out of earshot started properly laughing. I’ve never seen it before but I imagine that is to cycling what getting hit in the groin is to cricket – utterly hilarious to everyone who isn’t the injured party. Half an hour later I was still in stitches about it.
I suppose all human activities involve some separation into tribes, we just can’t help it.