In a “Grumpy Old Men”, wasn’t-it-better-in-the-old-days kind of way, it’s possible that the UK may have reached cycling saturation. Just how many cycling images is it possible to see in one day? Like a D-list celebrity stumbling from a nightclub in search of a paparazzi, cycling is looking a little too eager to get on the public’s radar.
Take a selection of recent material seen on a typical (train-based) commute to London.
I open my newspaper to read of a review of a cycling novel, “Gold” by Chris Cleave and an advert for a book called “Hero On a Bicycle”. In my opinion, sporting fiction in general doesn’t have a strong pedigree. Aside from Tim Krabbe’s seminal race account “The Rider”, the pool of cycle fiction is a shallow and muddy one. A particular low point was Freya North’s “Cat” a combination of soft porn, Cosmopolitan relationship advice and a “Dummies Guide to the Tour de France”, or “Jilly Cooper on wheels” according to Women’s Own.
I arrive at Waterloo station to be confronted by a vast poster of a brooding Victoria Pendleton hanging from the rafters. It’s part of her ambassador’s duties for Olympic games energy supplier EDF. But blimey, she’s everywhere!
Also there behind the departure boards is BAE Systems crowing about their work on timing systems for the UK’s cyclists. “Why not?” you might argue, “they’re just making hay while the sun shines”. True, the UK’s likely to bag a few medals in the cycling discipline, if they’ve been part of it shouldn’t they get a little recognition.
I walk into a bookshop and there’s Boris Johnson’s latest work (isn’t he supposed to be working as Mayor of London, not writing books?) “Johnson’s Life of London”. Across the dust jacket are 15 people riding a bike, piloted by Boris. The Barclay’s Cycle Hire Scheme a.k.a. “Boris Bikes” may well turn out to be his most lasting legacy. The choice of cover art is, to my cynical mind, an attempt to reinforce this.
At what point is someone going to say “OK, enough already, give it a rest!” Perhaps when we’re all wafting around on traffic-free Dutch style cycle paths? Didn’t cycling used to be something a bit niche: like baking your own bread or swimming in rivers. Something that everyone used to do, then stopped doing and is once again cool. I’m clearly going to have to get over this and accept the change.