following is a transcript from a Cyclists Anonymous meeting. Although
the names have been changed, the individual stories are harrowingly
I'm here at my partner's request. Personally I consider this to
be a waste of time. No offense. It's just that I could be out on my
bike. You've heard of Audax? They revoked my membership after the last
ride I organised made too many people commit suicide. But it's not an
obsession. Far from it. It's just a hobby. Like model airplanes, or
collecting novelty condiment jars. There's no Marmiters Anonymous, is
there? So why a Cyclists Anonymous? I really don't understand. But I
promised my partner, so here I am. She had a fit when I did the London-Edinburgh-London
run. We were living in Edinburgh at the time, and I insisted on riding
to and from the start of the event. So that made it Edinburgh-London-Edinburgh-London-Edinburgh.
What's the big deal? It just makes sense. I needed to warm up and warm
I'm into charity in a big way. My favourite cause is cats which have
been forced out of their homes due to personality clashes with their
owners. It's a vexing problem, quite underreported in the mainstream
press. They need money to start a new life. I've always felt for them
in my heart, but never knew how to help. Then a friend of mine told
me she was doing an end-to-end in aid of retired end-to-enders. I asked
her what that was. When she explained, I couldn't believe that people
could actually pedal that far without dying or something. These days
I think, oh, it's Monday, time for another e2e. I'm an old hand now.
My only accident happened last year when I ran over a cat on the outskirts
I've always been attracted to unicycling as a lifestyle. I guess it's
because I'm a bit of a minimalist. A unicyclist has pared cycling down
to its basics: a wheel and a saddle. To be honest a saddle isn't even
really necessary. I removed mine when I realised it was getting in the
way of my oneness with the wheel. I feel that I'm a remarkably well-balanced
individual. So I really don't belong here. But it was a condition of
It started with a dream I had one night. There was a big cassette with
a thousand cogs spinning dementedly. My mum was hanging upside-down
from a top tube, eating ice-cream with chopsticks and shaking her head
sadly whilst liaising with an audience of executive garden gnomes. What
was bizarre about it was that she doesn't particularly care for frozen
deserts. I asked her what was wrong and she whinnied like a horse but
didn't offer any other comment. The cogs spun faster and faster, whipping
up a hurricane, knocking over all the gnomes except one. Later I found
out that gnomes are standard dream parlance for gears. What my dream
had been trying to tell me was that all I needed was one gear! I knew
singlespeeding was for me subconsciously before I knew it consciously.
The mind is a really amazing thing.
I'm just a regular commuter. 6.8 miles round-trip. It's a good route.
I even catch a nice long cycle lane, nearly half a block. After I'd
been doing it for awhile I couldn't help but notice that other commuters
were going faster than me. It seemed like they were doing it on purpose.
I told one of them "This isn't a race," but she just looked
at me funny and increased her pace. It was really ridiculous. So I did
the only thing I could do: I went a little faster, just to show her
this isn't supposed to be a competitive sport. Every day brought new
outrages. After awhile I realised that 'winning' isn't what it's all
about. What's important is keeping up appearances.
I got another cycling computer for Christmas. It was just what I wanted.
I already have three, but I like to have each one set at a different
function, to avoid pressing buttons and altering my aerodynamic profile.
I wear a yellow jersey but it's not what you think. There's scientific
reasons for yellow being a faster colour; Procycling did a
story. Something about optimal wavelengths of light and human photosynthesis.
It's highly technical, I can't explain it in so many words. I've entered
myself in the Tour every year now for the last 5 years, but you have
to know somebody to get in, it's like everything else.
I was carrying my bike upstairs one day when it suddenly struck me:
I could get to like this. Cruising along without a care in the world
is one thing, but hauling my bike o'r hill and dale -- that's something
else again. I find the weight on my shoulder calming, reassuring. Often
I don't even bother to get on; 'cross biking in its purest most sublime
form. Sometimes when I'm in the Zone I carry two, one on each shoulder.
A friend of mine altered his car rack to fit on his back instead and
carries five. I'm in awe of him.
It all started when Larry, my boyfriend, begged me to put knobblies
on to spice things up. I hadn't a clue what he was on about. I told
him fine, but I wasn't going in to Ann Summers to ask for them. He just
laughed. The next thing I knew we were pedalling along Striding Edge
on Helvellyn. Well, not quite. I had to work up to that. Larry started
by blindfolding me and sending me into New Forest: "Be the
trail," he chanted. I'm still banned. Soon I was able to do more
technical trails. Next year we're hoping to give K2 a go. Still waiting
for the permits.
There's a joke by the comedian Steven Wright: "I'm not afraid of
heights. I'm afraid of widths." Well, I'm afraid of heights and
widths. That's why I ride a 'bent. As I'm sure you're aware by now,
the saddle is much more comfortable than a 'wedgie'. In fact it's so
nice I don't see any reason to get off. I've found I can do all sorts
of things on my 'bent that you wouldn't have thought possible. In fact
my firstborn was conceived on a long wheelbase model. Try that on an
I would be irresponsible if I didn't think about cycling most of my
waking hours. After all, I'm a journo for a cycling mag. That's what
I get paid to do. And I need every one of my 17 bicycles (and another
dozen or so in pieces). You choose the right tool for the job, don't
you? Some of my bikes work optimally only at certain temperatures. You
wouldn't understand unless you UNDERSTAND. Other bikes are theoretically
on loan; I'm reviewing them for the mag. I've been putting one through
its paces for 5 years now: I'm that thorough. It's a matter of professional
pride. The bike company complained about 4 years ago, but I just told
them I was still uncovering its nuances.
Plus, July 2002