Cycling consumer fail

It was only when I was getting the kit on to go mountainbiking in the Forest of Dean last weekend that I realised that where bike shops are concerned, I am a living nightmare.

It’s not so much that they have the raving heebie-jeebies when I go in, it’s just that I don’t go in, much. I’m a failed consumer. They’d all go out of business if it was up to me.

The bike I’d just lubed, propped up against the wall outside, waiting for me is about 18 years old. Orange P7. Hardtail. Light as a feather. Updated along the way with Shimano’s spiffiest groupset, Avid Juicy brakes and couple of new wheels, for those interested in the technicalities. That’s as technical as I get. (Actually I was annoyed about the wheels. I specified wheels which were on a par with the original wheels with knackered hubs and the guys at Williams Cycles, Cheltenham, when they couldn’t get them, just ordered what they thought, without consulting me. Never been back since. They also argued the toss about me faulty rear light so two black marks and sod off forever.)

The T shirt I put on was a Rox T – 20 years old at the very least. It’s my favourite Banana T shirt with a big beautiful – guess what? – banana image on the front and a very small hole in it, in an unobtrusive place. It’s endured thousands of washings.

The shorts are five years old – pocketed grey jobs so I can take my phone and cool tool without bothering with a seat pack. Cycling shorts underneath – surprisingly only two years old – and gloves only two years old.

I have nothing new. But, hey, bike shops can breath sigh of relief – I’ll be looking for a new pair of cycling mitts soon, having lost one of my favourite purple ones. Those could cost as much as a tenner. I’ll have a look in Leisure Lakes first in Chelters and if that fails, it’s trip down to Bristle to my favourite bike shop Mud Dock, where you can have decent brekkies, lunch, supper plus watch old Grand Tour + Classics footage.

I saw loads of cyclists taking advantage of a beautiful sunny/cloudy warm Bank Holiday. The roadie boys l – like adverts straight out of cycling mags; lycra, new-looking white bikes, beautiful shoes with white on them for God’s sake…

But while cycling is very much each to his own, looking like an advert isn’t, to be honest what cycling is about. Aspiring to the sparkly and new kind of distracts from the fact that cycling as an activity anyone do at virtually any age with a bike that works.

A cycling pal of mine admitted his bike is nearly forty years old and he has no specific cycling clothing apart from a new helmet. He’s just getting back into cycling again. I predict that within a year, he’ll be in some kind of lycra and white socks to show off the honed leg muscles!

So while I think the new spiffy white bikes look lovely, I’m happy with old purple Orange. Like its owner, it scrubs up fine when the occasion demands. My road bike is a practical black, so while you can still see the mud, it doesn’t look so blatantly awful as a white bike covered in mud.

Off-road, my style is neutral, not look-at-me. I’d prefer it if people didn’t look. One of the great things with cycling is the freedom to look however you end up looking. You don’t take a hairbrush mountainbiking unless you have a meeting straight afterwards. Unlikely. 

I’m riding for the craic… for the pure peace, the challenge and the joy of it. I don’t much care what I look like. It’s gloriously and most definitely not about making an impression on anyone else. I don’t give a toss if the young guns posing with their brand new downhilling bikes (over-engineered to look like scrambler bikes) look at me and think “Just how old is that Orange?” 

Having said all that, road riding is different. You need to think about clothing carefully – to be as visible as possible, to be prepared for weather and, importantly, to wear nice undies in case the white van moment comes.

But mountainbiking… wet or dry..makes worrying about appearance pointless. Nature provides its own make-up – a light covering of dust or globs of mud up your nose and splattered over your cheeks. It’s the outdoors!  A girl’s natural glow should come from sun and effort. And the hair? People I know pay good money for BedHead products to get the same look I have when I take off the helmet and shake out the hair!

So I’ve come back from the ride with wild hair, dusty legs and the usual oily chain mark on the back of my right calf.

Time for a shower.


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About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
This entry was posted in Countryside, Current Affairs, Cycling, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Cycling consumer fail

  1. Darrel Kirby says:

    There are a lot of MAMILs about at the moment (Middle Aged Men in Lycra), but worse than that are those people with all the gear and no idea: shiny bikes, Lycra in racing colours, look like they are about to compete in the TdF but just end up wobbling down the road. I’m not a cyclist (as you may have previously gathered) but in similar pursuits I prefer your approach: low key and inconspicuous and do nothing to raise unrealistic expectations amongst casual observers.

    • janh1 says:

      Hi D 🙂 Those MAMILs are the people keeping the bike shops in business, so I can’t criticise too much but years ago, when the youngest was competing in the Malvern Classic – a brilliant mountainbike festival over several days at Eastnor Park – it was significant that, at the top of the climb, it was the guys with the expensive Cannondale mountainbikes who were getting off and pushing… Top class kit never did win races without the legs to match! 🙂

      There are many more posers in cycling than there ever were… but the lovely thing about it is that, whatever your cycling taste or level, you shouldn’t feel you have to prove anything. Just get out there, get on with it and enjoy!

      • Darrel Kirby says:

        Classic all the gear and no idea.
        I have tried to get out there and enjoy cycling, but I find it difficult to enjoy myself when my lungs are trying to escape through my nose and my legs are on fire….

      • janh1 says:

        Hahaha… that wouldn’t happen if you went out more than twice. Ask your bro… 🙂

  2. The cycling shops will be lining up for your glove business.

    I didn’t realise there was an acronym for MAMIL’s. It is incredibly apt since it is a huge, growing market.

  3. janh1 says:

    Hi Sophie – yes I know!! And woe betide them if I find that one missing mitt because then, I’ll be in need of nothing 🙂 (although I might go to Mud Dock anyway… just to stroke the top tubes of the new racing bikes)

  4. theroyalist says:

    Hello Jan,

    Great post, I really enjoy your style of light-hearted writing.

    As a non-cyclist I have never thought of the white van moment but now you mention it, it could happen anytime, any place, to anyone, even a non-cyclist. Never before in blogland have I felt such fear of the what if?
    It’s time I ditched the Buzz Lightyear drawers. 🙂

    • janh1 says:

      Helloooo!! Good to see you 🙂 Thanks!

      Oh I don’t live life full of dread but full of joie de vivre! It’s just that mumsie would want me to be well turned out in the undies department, should anything adverse happen… 🙂

      No keep the Buzz drawers… paramedics love a laugh. 🙂

  5. Jane Parry says:

    Any Crystal tips hair moments lately Jan???!!!x

    • janh1 says:

      Ello my Babbs! No. Spring has sprung and let’s face it, I’ll only encounter thick swirling mists if I go walking on Cleeve Hill with you and the doggos! 🙂 xx

      And we don’t even mention the air ambulance… ooops, wasn’t going to mention that.

  6. Sarah Bryson says:

    My MAMIL has spent a lot over the years on equipment…. 🙂 – I’m sure he makes up for your minimal expenditure. but I don’t like to ask.

    • janh1 says:

      Hi Sarah… well GOOD!!! I’m glad he’s keeping the industry going. Do pass on my good wishes and ask him to please keep it up and I’m only buying mitts this year… 🙂

      I work with a doc whose husband has four bikes and loads of kit – but actually is super-keen super-fit cyclist so its totally allowed!

  7. Amen. And what is more, when I cycle I do it for all kinds of reasons. I cycle to work in work clothes. I cycle to the shop in my favouite comfort clothes. And frankly I verge on bag lady for pure cycling leisure. Who gives a monkeys, as long as the wind is whistling through your hair and you’re on two wheels? I have the zeal of a recent convert 😀

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