i have heard it said that british cycling has increased its current membership to something approaching or exceeding 60,000 and has as its target, to encompass 100,000 individuals before too much longer has passed. excluding the number who may also be members of the cyclists' touring club and those who have joined only one of each, that is a substantial number of cyclists. for it seems perfectly equanimous to expect that members of the former can be classed as at least somewhat serious regarding their velocipedinal acivities. that equates to just over 28 and a half islays, the thought of which would likely have calmac's board of directors expressing great concern.
however, in the grand scheme of things, 100,000 people is not a whole lot of bagels. the population of london is some eight million, while scotland is home to around five million. if i were any good with numbers or fractions, i'd make my point ever more effectively, but for now you'll simply have to use your imagination.
therefore, when it comes to actually being a cyclist, whether one of the above with a membership card in your wallet/purse or not, there is a certain degree of individuality in evidence. marry that with an insouciant predilection for polyester, sportwool and lycra and, to misquote robert burns 'wha's like us?'. i'm sure there exists an appropriately suitable answer to that last question, one that relates the world of the cyclist to the equally individualistic worlds of runners, canoeists, skateboarders etc, etc. however i think it likely i have now made my point; to be blunt, in terms of the greater good of human society we are unlikely to be regarded as 'sheep'.
which is, of course, very far from the truth.
it takes only a brief perusal of the cycling magazines inhabiting the racks in the closest branch of wh smith or its worldwide equivalent. around tour time, all are comprised of remarkably similar articles, features and exclusives, and though each would likely defend its own individuality and superior editorial layout, i cannot be the only one to have noticed that they start out with a few pages of photos from recent cycle sport activity, followed by pages peppered with intriguing facts about riders whose names are hard to pronounce. there is invariably a feature on a rider or race from yesteryear accompanied by the obligatory black and white photos, and somewhere within those glossy pages will be a shop window of the very latest kit that none of us could conceivably hope to purchase on the kind of wages we earn.
i do not disparage such content, for there are many experienced and erudite writers who contribute to such periodicals, along with their counterparts behind the camera lens. several of the articles are of great interest, but their placement and frequency lends a certain credence to my accusation that here indeed, is the first sign of sheepness, an almost ritual following in each others' wheeltracks. i know not why this is the case, unless the result of extensive focus group testing in which, at some point, more than just a few of british cycling's membership stated that this was the sort of fare they required in each and every cycle publication ad finitum.
thankfully, and i do mean this most sincerely, there are a number of alternatives appearing in and from places one would least expect. i have already reviewed lionel birnie's and ellis bacon's cycling anthology a publication that offers the reading cyclist a veritable smorgasbord of involving narrative. it is, however, predominantly concerned with the milieu of the racing cyclist; a sort of cycle sport, procycling, peloton, road for those happy to live without pictures and fill their heads with excellent writing. but the world of cycling does not solely revolve around those racing hither and thither; there are other aspects to consider, many of which are explored in jack thurston's bicycle reader.
do not think for a single minute that mr thurston has busied himself with fingers and word processor writing chapter after chapter for our edification. he does contribute an editors' introduction in co-operation with tim dawson, but from there on in, we are in the thrall of the contributors. and not a racer to be seen (or read).
'Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live' is almost as frequently quoted as h g wells' When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.', but were you aware that 'tis but the final sentence of a lengthy discourse by mark twain upon the trials and tribulations of learning how to ride what we colloquially refer to as a penny farthing? no, until this issue of the bike reader, neither did i. russ roca of los angeles relates how losing his car to mechanical deficiency was the best thing that ever happened to him, alex baca tells of the poltics and symbolism of riding a bicycle in washington dc while violet paget, writing in 1904 explains her delight at the quietude of her bicycle. still avoiding unadulterated speed of any form, there are philosophical musings as well as the sheer joy of touring on a bicycle unfettered by a perceived need to be somewhere, sometime.
the bicycle reader features only one illustration, and a particularly superb example at that, on the cover by way of an andrew pavitt lino cut, the very sight of which promises all that resides within. i apologise for the apparent tardiness of this tendered review, but though issued in the summer of this year, i became aware of it only these past few weeks, perhaps timeously with issue number two due in january of the new year. this is not a tangible entity, but one that inhabits the pixels of your e-book reader. the current issue is available for kindle via amazon for the paltry sum of £1.53.
no sheep were harmed in the making of this publication.
monday 10th december 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................