Sorry Clarkson but only "cocks" listen to you - Road Cycling UK

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Sorry Clarkson but only "cocks" listen to you

“If I see a cyclist, I will run them over” are the immortal [Don’t you mean immoral? – ed.?]words spoken by Jeremy Clarkson. He hates cyclists with as much loathing as he does Guardian readers, socialists, liberals and similar undesirables. In fact, I’m pretty sure he hates everything and anything and, when I recently read one of his books cover to cover, my overriding impression was “Jeez, what a misanthropic bore!”

I found my own thoughts surprising because I like Clarkson and I’m a petrolhead at heart; I grew up watching him on the original Top Gear and any show he did after he left was watched with equal enthusiasm, which ended up including the re-jigged format of Top Gear.

So I found that my respect for the guy was shaken and yet it’s put me in an uncomfortable position, because as the editor pointed out, if you criticise him you are labelled a “kill joy” Yet, when you get him writing about cars or machines, you see that is what he does best. Another of his books, “I Know You Got Soul” is great because he gives his nominations for machines and devices he fills your head with enough pub trivia  to bore anyone within a mile radius. For example, did you know that during launch a single Space Shuttle engine – and it has three of them – drains fuel at the rate of 17 Olympic sized swimming pools per second? [No – ed.]

It’s writing about non-mechanical things that gets up my nose about Clarkson because I get the impression that he’s trying to act like he’s 90 years old and thoroughly boring. The exposure from Top Gear has made him a household name and his line of books have made him fabulously wealthy. These days he belongs to that line of pseudo celebrities who have each finger in a different pie such as Katie Price or Piers Morgan. We may hate them; we may wish they would go away, we may wish that their oxygen of publicity would dry up. Yet our inner capitalist can’t help but feel a sense of admiration for their ability to find media exposure and the riches that result.

This exposure gives Clarkson the chance to say what he thinks, hence the quote that opened up this rather Clarkson-esque diatribe. It’s intended to be funny but isn’t and it’s unrealistic and downright stupid because, as I found last weekend when I took a Pegoretti Responsorium for a spin, the car drivers on the roads who act as though they are going to run cyclists over drive BMW’s or similar mid-range junior executive type saloons.

Who are the same type of drivers whom Clarkson and the Top Gear team denounce as “cocks.” It occurred to me that people simply do not know how to drive when there are cyclists or maybe even horse riders on the road. Yet they have as much right to use the road as do car drivers.

My ride took me through the Oxfordshire downs, the weather wasn’t great, it was spitting with rain and there was a strong wind. While on a stretch of exposed countryside the wind was coming at my left side and so, as well as pedalling, I was also concentrating on trying to go in a relatively straight line. Then – and this is so typical – a BMW driver shot past me so close that if I’d moved my right shoulder outwards by an inch I would have been struck by the car. It also caused havoc because the force of the car punching a hole through the air leant me into the side wind but, once it had shot off, it left me at the mercy of the side wind which nearly sent me off balance and required me to re-stabilise myself.

Now, I can’t give car drivers advice on how to act without digging out my not-so-old learning to drive books but from a cycling point of view I can point you in the direction of the IAM’s book, Advanced Cycling.

When the editor first gave me the press release announcing that the book had been launched I rolled my eyes. “The Institute for Advanced Motoring”? “Is this another government quango that takes taxpayers’ money and gives us nanny state lectures on how the temperatures of our bathtubs should be between x and y degrees?” (apologies for sounding like my deposed hero Clarkson)

Is it a nannying book? Absolutely not. In fact (and I’ve not been paid by the IAM to say such things) I would say to all who read this blog, get this book. You can read the review here and without re-hashing what I said in the review, it’s a book packed full of simple common sense that we, as cyclists, are sometimes as guilty of lacking as are the worst car drivers.

How you should behave and what to look out for are fully covered in the book, which I would especially recommend to town and city riders. No running red lights!

On a final note though, whilst out on the ride, a lot of drivers were passing me rather slowly but I couldn’t tell if it was because they were interested in the Pegoretti’s custom barb wire paint job or laughing at the overweight and under-fit pizza eating wheeze-bag riding it….

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