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

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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