Someone asked:- “Do you think Wiggins’ victory will make more people cycle?” The best answer I could manage is that it may not increase the quantity but it might have some impact on the quality?
Can any readers confirm that Germans don’t understand the concept of a charity bike ride? It would make sense, they don’t all want to ride bikes for a hundred kilometres but they certainly all know that riding a bike at a comfortable pace, for a few hours, is no big deal.
Anything is easy when you can do it. The hard part isn’t doing it, the difficulty is in becoming a person who knows how to do it. Learning to ride a bike is not a big problem, the more you do it the easier it gets, especially if you get some guidance – or spend time riding with good role-models – to avoid practising doing it wrong. Years of search-and-peck at a keyboard don’t make it easier to become a touch-typist.
Lately a problem for English people – isolated from the heroic role-models of cycle-sport and the practicalities of everyday cycle travel – has been the misapprehension that there’s nothing to learn. Becoming a person who can exploit the potential of a bike is not a big problem but you have to understand that there’s stuff to discover and to practice. Bicycling is young. In historical terms a hundred and twenty years is quite a short time. In evolutionary terms it’s a blink. It’s hard to say much about cycling in this pioneer era but one thing’s for sure… Riding a bike is not natural. Nothing in nature prepared us for floating on compressed air, in a state of perpetual falling where only the forces are balanced.
If you can ride a horse, paddle a kayak or ski, these activities are easy, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if someone without experience, taking them up, sought instruction, or at least the company of expert companions? The idea that everyone knows how to ride a bike, the ‘as-easy-as’ cliche, can be interpreted as another manifestation of mainstream culture’s disdain for bicycle travel. It doesn’t cost anything so it can’t be worth anything. The adjective ‘humble’ sometimes seems compulsory.
The mistaken assumption that everybody can ride a bike – as opposed to the truth that almost everybody has the potential to ride a bike – is encouraged by the fact that, in societies where cycling is an unremarkable part of everyday life, a lot of subtle knowledge is passed on in infancy. One of the best things about riding in the Netherlands is watching tiny children take their mother’s wheel, or the weaker member of a middle-aged couple – dressed for town and riding roadsters – changing their position, as the road zig-zags across the polders, to always hold the spot where they get the best shelter from their companion, crafty as Joop Zoetemelk.
There’s usually been room for one racing champion in British culture. As in…
“Who do you think you are…?”
- …Reg Harris? (1955)
- …Beryl Burton? (1965)
- …Eddy Merckx? (1975)
- …Chris Boardman? (1995)
Now that the sports-literate person-in-the-street has to engage with at least two, they also have to consider some of the apparently simple activity’s subtleties. What makes Cavendish different from Wiggins? Wiggins different from Froome? How does Wiggins go so fast and look so smooth?
really get along, really combine successfully?
The quality goes up, the satisfaction goes up and then the quantity goes up.
It might work?