Haute couture? My how you’ve changed, you beautiful, simple pursuit. Fashion house Hermes now offers bikes, marrying posh frocks with posh frames. But this is no stand alone gimmick. So do Lacoste, Trussardi, Chanel, Louis Vuitton Armani and Dolce & Gabbana. Even Aston Martin make a bike, if you want one to go with your martini (shaken, not stirred). That’ll set you back an eye watering $40,000. I’m not sure how I feel about this. To a certain extent, it feels like my hobby, interest and passion has been hijacked by marketers, who are sprinting down the road with it in a peloton of gorgeous people, decked in the finest (non) cycling wear that credit cards can finance.
It is not the cycling that I recognise. It is not the riding around Heath Park jumping off the lip of golf bunkers aged 9. It is not rigid mountain biking over a nightime Garth, path barely illuminated by the tiniest of lights, aged 22. It is not the TT speed machine of my first triathlon bike, bending my back into unforgiving positions and aching in every joint aged 28. It is not the thrill of bouncing down Ingleborough or Whernside or Pen-Y-Ghent on my cross bike aged 34. It is not the long haul of the Tour of Flanders, knuckles white, knees screaming, vibration white finger loosening my grip on the handle bars aged 36. It is not carrying your tent on your back and navigating across the moors with Jules in the Polaris, aged 38. It is not crashing into a crumpled Dutchman and flying, through the air and out of control over French cobbles aged 43. It is not the simple act of riding to work, or to the shops, or to the pub, or over to a friends house any-age-you-like from 18 onwards.
It is of course, not necessarily a bad thing. Anything that gets people cycling should be warmly welcomed and embraced, even if that something is not your cup of tea. I just hope we never – any of us, ALL of us – lose sight of the fact that at heart, the simple mechanism, motion and act of cycling, is what makes riding bikes so special. My bike never reminds me of the ‘ash war chariots deployed by the Hittites and ancient Egyptians’. It reminds me of good times. Simple as that. because it is not the name on your jacket, your shorts, your jodphurs or even the badge on the frame that matters; its being on a bike that counts.
Original article in Le Monde and repeated in the Guardian Weekly, 12th-18th December 2014