Forget golf. My name is Gemma and I am a cycling widow.
Cycling is just everywhere now. It is the sport du jour.
Even my parents are suddenly into it. Between them and my long-time-obsessed boyfriend there really is no escape. I realised this when, a few days ago, I found I had willingly paid to sit through a 90-minute documentary on the bicycle. On a Sunday night.
It’s official – I’ve been brainwashed.
Look – I haven’t got a problem with cycling in theory. It’s jolly to watch (NOT as a spectator. That is a little dull. From the sofa – fine). The jerseys are pretty. It’s good to have on in the background – quite relaxing if you ignore the (often) hilarious commentary, and the occasional screaming at TV from the man next to me on the sofa.
But the thing is – cycling doesn’t sleep.
It is ALWAYS on, even when it isn’t on. (I’m continually told the season is ending…then I find we are watching more cycling…am I missing something?)
If it’s not on the TV, it’s on podcasts – stealthily consumed, like an addict, from the shower or at the kitchen sink.
If it’s not the podcasts, it’s Twitter. Constantly.
Then there’s YouTube. Hours and hours of YouTube.
On top of all this audio-visual consumption of cycling, there’s actual cycling. On the daily commute to work and back. Up at the crack of dawn on the weekends for longer trips. Timed, presented in graphs, analysed. It’s a real commitment. To be honest, I’m mostly impressed that I have a boyfriend who can demonstrate such a commitment to something.
The bone of contention isn’t so much the mental space it requires from my boyfriend, but the actual space it takes away from me.
We have three bikes in our tiny flat. There’s no garden or anything – they live in the spare bedroom. Then there’s the equipment, tools, shoes, giant bag, weird padded Lycra, helmet etc. Cycling just comes with so much paraphernalia.
It really is exhausting. And I don’t even ride a bike.
But I’d rather this than golf. Or worse, football. As far as sport goes cycling is pretty non-offensive. And full of passionate European men, so naturally entertaining.
After nearly 5 years of cycling widowhood I have absorbed quite a bit. I could pick out Alberto Contador in a crowd. And, although it pains me to say it, I did feel a rush of pride during all the trendy London 2012 cycling fever when I was able to spout off obscure to (impressed?) friends.
Now with my parents donning the Lycra (well not quite yet, but its only a matter of time, right Dad?) at least I can hold a conversation about their new passion with them. That can only be a good thing.
So while I may gripe, and while I do wish we actually had a spare bedroom, this cycling widow is happy (I recognise I am not actually married). I have other reasons to be happy too, according to recent research.
Cyclists are, apparently, better in bed.
They are also less stressed than the rest of us.
So, cycling is good for your health, mind and sex life, and it’s (kind of) free. Great.
Good for people all round. No argument there. Or is there?
Conservative District Councillor Deirdre Alden caused recent controversy in the cycling community (so I am told) when she openly criticised a £23 million scheme that would provide 2,000 Birmingham cyclists with free bikes, saying that cycling is a “discriminatory form of transport.”
Her reasoning was that “the vast majority of cyclists on our roads are young, white men.” Also adding that cycling is too dangerous for old people. And that, to round things off, modest women wouldn’t cycle either.
… What a bloody ridiculous thing to say. Is she just making up statistics?
I can’t believe I need to say this, but obviously cycling is no more discriminatory than alternative transport methods – are cars, trains or buses free? No. Is cycling free – mostly, yes. Totally – for those lucky enough to receive support in the form of a free bike.
Anything that improves people’s health, wellbeing and mobility – particularly for those people facing economic and other disadvantages – is a good thing. Surely? If anything, cycling can help to combat transport discrimination. It means people can get to work, friends and family, the doctors and other services without having to shell out a minimum of £2.10 for a bus trip.
And it will get people having great sex.