Your correspondent stands at a mainline railway station waiting with an Orbea Orca (coming soon to these pages) to board a train. A cyclist, chap in his fifties, wanders past with a Genesis Day One. Conversation ensues.
Him: ‘Nice bike’. Me: ‘Thanks. Not mine. Test bike’. Him: ‘Oh’.
Me: ‘Nice bike’. Him: ‘Thanks. Commuting bike. Recently converted to fixed’. Me: ‘Oh’.
Fast forward another 30 minutes and we’ve covered flip-flop hubs, Victoria Pendleton, steel vs. carbon, and cycling’s lead over other sports in the fight against doping, among a raft of other topics.
He’s a convert, persuaded to try the sport by his son, and today four stone lighter, an Alps veteran, double digit daily commuter, and a man whose final preparations for a holiday with his wife have involved purchasing Sean Yates’ recently published autobiography, which he draws from a pannier with a grin.
Your correspondent ends a ride at his local bike shop. A cyclist, an old friend from another walk of life, chap in his forties, is eyeing a Trek Madone 7. Conversation ensues.
Me: ‘Nice bike’. Him: ‘Thanks. Not mine. Test bike’. Me: ‘Oh’.
Him: ‘Nice bike’. Me: ‘Thanks. Not mine. Test bike. New wheels.’ Him: ‘Oh’.
Fast forward 30 minutes and we’ve covered the separate pleasures of road and mountain biking, aluminium vs. carbon, wheel upgrades, and the irresistible allure of pro bikes.
He’s a convert, persuaded to try the sport by a nagging sense that his soul belonged to the tarmac rather than the trail, and the suspicion that the many and varied pleasures of mountain biking could be topped ultimately by the freedom offered by a road bike.
His still-immaculate aluminium steed stands in the foreground on its recently acquired Mavic Ksyrium Elite S hoops, and he has already considered the benefits of swapping the new wheels into the carbon bike.
Your correspondent rides out through the suburbs to the waiting countryside. The weather forecast is, for once, joyfully inaccurate. The predicted gales and downpours are notably absent, and I am far from alone in seizing the opportunity for a ride. A cyclist, chap of about 15, passes on the other side of the road.
Him: Nod. Smile. Me: Nod. Smile.
He is clad head to toe in Team Sky kit, his face partly concealed by wrap-around shades. In his head he is Wiggins, or Froome, or, if he’s been following the Vuelta, perhaps even Boasson Hagen or Kiriyenka. The Tour of Britain starts today and he is wearing his colours with obvious pride.
Rewind 25 years. The logo on my jersey said Fagor rather than Sky, and in my head and I was Roche, or Millar, or Yates, but most importantly, I was a cyclist, and not, like every one of my classmates, a footballer. I wonder if this Sky recruit is alone in his calling, or if his classmates have spent the last week discussing Wiggins’ long-awaited return to British roads.
Your correspondent phones his brother, a cyclist (astonishingly to his family), chap in his forties, who the previous day has completed his first proper ride: nearly 30 miles through the one of the hilliest parts of the country.
He’s a convert, but certainly wouldn’t describe himself as such. Yet. He’d planned his ride and seen it through, stopping after 13 miles at a café and noting the friendliness of other cyclists engaged in the same pursuit. He’s noted also (to my amazement) that some of the machines lent outside the café are carbon, that some are time trial bikes, and that the riders are clad in lycra, while he has made his first expedition in hiking gear and on an old mountain bike. Seeds have clearly been sewn, and his pride in finishing the ride comes loud and clear down the line.
Cycling is a sport that can be enjoyed just as much alone as with a group or team, but there’s a fraternity of the road, expressed in nods and waves or chats at the café, at the station, or anywhere you might encounter another convert. Our numbers are many, and growing.