Journal

  • How The Bike Got Into Me

    I didn't know him at the time but I remember seeing Antoine Ventouse
    getting off his orange J F Wilson bike in town, lean, shaven tanned
    legs, Hebden cord short-shorts, vintage embroidered french jersey,
    looking the part in the sun. I'd already decided that I wanted to
    become a cyclist and I'd bought a second hand 531 steel bike and done
    a few short rides on my own but I had no idea of where to go from
    there. I introduced myself to Antoine, we talked about the bike and
    about clobber, became friends and he gave me the pointers and advice I
    needed.

    I had lost interest in playing football; it's not really something you
    can do on your own and organising games of football around other
    people was hard. And you don't see many blokes playing football past
    the age of 40. I wanted something new and different and cycling held a
    lot of appeal. There was something romantic about being an endurance
    athlete. And the aesthetic of professional riders past and present was
    undeniable - they looked hard and lean. It wasn't just pros either.
    I'd seen knarly old boys on touring bikes with saddlebags that looked
    like they had ridden all of their lives and they looked lean and
    healthy. If I fostered the same lifetime habit, I knew that I'd be
    adding years to my life. And there was the limitless freedom that the
    bike offered; setting off and riding as far from home as you fancied
    whenever you fancied it with no train timetables or traffic jams to
    hinder your progress and no cost - just some food in your belly for
    fuel and the strength in your legs.

    I didn't know it at the time but once I started riding I discovered
    the social appeal of riding 6 inches apart for hours at a time
    chatting as a pair or in a group, in the same way as you might with a mate down the pub but
    rolling around Derbyshire enjoying some of the nicest views in Europe,
    if not the world, instead. And it becomes a social currency in the
    same way that football is. People want to chat about the bike and
    organise rides. I've ridden with and met some ace people. I've had
    some of my best experiences and most interesting conversations while
    on the bike. Long may it continue! 

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