When you get to my advanced years, your perspectives change a little bit, and you find yourself justifying actions and possessions that you’d never imagine in your youth. The way that this works in our household is usually with a conversation with Mrs E that ends with the line: “Well, there are worse ways that I could be having a mid-life crisis”. Mrs E tolerates this with a mixture of disdain and abuse, and then usually matches my crisis with one of her own, and in this way we’ve progressed merrily along in the last few years with both of us getting our own way. As a result I’ve done some stupid running and cycling events, unveiled a ridiculously outsized new shed and bought a couple of bicycles and some ill advised tweed trousers, often on the specific excuse that I’ve not been having an affair with a Lithuanian pole dancer. Which, just to clear things up, I haven’t. I really wouldn’t know what to do. And I don’t speak Lithuanian. (Tell me when I start protesting too much.)
Anyway, we’ll concentrate on Mrs E’s particular way of dealing with her MLC another time, possibly in a ‘how many handbags is too many?’ special. This week, we’re talking about bicycles.
By the standards of some, my MLC has been poorly matched by any real excess. Some of my middle aged friends have garages full of expensive hand built machines that are often too precious to ride. I, on the other hand, have limited myself to three bikes, which admittedly is two more than I can actually ride at once, but still not enough to arouse much suspicion on the pole dancer front.
Bicycle number one is the one I ride when out with my other Lycra clad chums, all in the belief that we could all have been something in British cycling, had the beer and years not got to us. Off we go on a Saturday morning, to incur the wrath of fellow road users, beating ourselves up for a couple of hours and managing to travel along at about 10mph slower than the average Tour de France peloton. B#1 was bought with the intent of satisfying a long held dream of owning an Italian bike, and everything on it is Italian, thereby giving it the style advantage, even when the bloke on it is barely able to move his legs at the end of a long stint in the saddle. No matter how many time a cyclist protests, we’re all poseurs at heart, and the pose I’m going for here is pretty much 100% Fausto Coppi, probably the coolest Italian ever to ride a bike. Unfortunately the grim reality is that I’m cutting a figure a bit more like Placido Domingo, but, like all MLC events, it’s all about escapism, innit?
And so on to bicycle number two, a single speed cut down number that is incredibly light and consequently really quite dangerous, especially on a fixed wheel. Mrs E gave this to me for my birthday a few years back, I went out for a ride on it and scared myself witless immediately. You know that feeling you get when you lose control of a car temporarily, perhaps when you hit a patch of ice? Well, it’s like that, pretty much all the time on that bike, and, as a result, kind of fun in its own way.
And finally, bicycle number three. I’ve owned this for about three years, but it’s much older than I am, and frankly, in far better condition. I bought it from an old boy in a local village who was having a clearout and was selling his Uncle’s trusty bicycle. If you’re interested, it is a 1946 BSA Regency with integrated dynamo hub, rod brakes, and (get this) colour coordinated cabling and saddle. Mrs E calls it the Monstrosity, and claims that it puts about 20 years on me. She may be right, as I find it incredibly important to wear what you might call appropriate clothing, while I’m riding it. I fear she may be right, as so often the retro gentleman look that I’m going for blends into that of a country estate twat, but I guess these are just the crosses we fashion victims have to bear.
And it was on this bike a couple of weeks ago that I found myself whizzing along to the office, with nary a care in the world. Cycling up to the lights, I stopped, and found myself next to another cyclist, riding a reasonably knackered old 3 speed. He was, I reckon, in his early twenties.
“Wow”, he said, “really like the bike.”
“Thank you”, I said, trying to blend friendliness with the imperious of the village policeman. (Riding this bike makes you feel like a 1950’s policeman anyway, as you survey the world around you. The dynamo lights even give out an eerie yellow glow on the front, which I find strangely satisfying.)
“Yes”, said he, “it’s got a real retro look, is it very old?”
“Fairly old”, I replied
“So, from the 1990’s?”, my new friend asked.
Had the lights not changed at that point, I might have managed to give him some sort of response. To me, something really old is something that is older than me, and I have a horrible feeling that that might have been his classification as well. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever find out, but suffice to say that the rest of the journey to work took place with me feeling completely ancient.
But I still really, really like my bike: