though i've no intention of instigating a full-blown exam, i wonder just how close attention you've been paying over the years to these incessant scribblings? would you, for instance, be able to tell me how many constitute the average velo club outing on a sunday morning? and to move just one step further, how many of those are of the female persuasion? it's an easy answer to the last one, one which most of you will probably have guessed.
i cannot deny that, on occasion, we have been joined by a female cyclist from time to time over the course of the years, but rarely are they drawn from the indigenous population; on almost every juncture, the girls have been visiting the principality. now this is not because we are misogynistic in our collective outlook, nor for macho reasons that have us afraid of being hammered in the sprint by a slip of a girl on a tatty road bike. it is purely and simply down to the fact that there are virtually no female ladies of the opposite sex riding bicycles on islay. and i don't just mean riding bicycles that would encourage them to join the hell for leather (a guy can dream can't he?) sunday morning ride.
were you to stand on the corner of main street and flora street in bowmore, holding a blank notebook on any day of the week before holiday season starts, it could be weeks or months before you had need of making any pencil marks to indicate having seen a lady on a bicycle.
my efforts to encourage islay ladies into riding bicycles may not have been strenuous, but they've been the best i could manage short of being slapped, and sadly to no avail. therefore, perhaps i'm precisely the wrong chap to be offering the benefit of my cycling experience to any women who may be considering a life on two wheels. happily, i have been exonerated by the inestimable cathy bussey who has produced the ideal introduction to a velocipedinal lifestyle for the fairer sex. copiously illustrated with colour photos of ladies on a wide variety of bicycles, i have struggled long and hard to think of any aspect of such a venture that she may have missed, but without success.
ms bussey's qualifications for authoring such a comprehensive and attractively designed volume are perhaps ideal. though perhaps over idolising team gb's female trackstars, this is not a background from which she hails. "It was only once I moved to London that I changed my outlook. I started noticing cyclists far more. I would have myself onto packed trains to spend a tedious, uncomfortable, overheated hour travelling to work. All around me, people were whizzing into work in half that time on bikes."
though her narrative is occasionally overburdened with hints of 'born again cyclist' it all comes across as genuine enthusiasm, and by midway through the book has become undeniably infectious. were it not for the weighting of certain chapters towards the decorative, celebrity and fashion aspects of riding two wheels, this would serve as the ideal introduction to anyone wishing to join the pelotonic lifestyle, male or female. peppered with quotes from women who have already embraced the art of pedalling, ms bussey still has her head well and truly screwed on via her repetitive implorings to be seen and to remain safe. there's perhaps a slight danger of accentuating the occasional perils of riding a bicycle in the big city, but it would have surely been grossly negligent to have glossed over their existence.
it has long been my contention that, whenever the subject of cycling arises in non-cycling company, aside from the flurry of protestations as to how many years were spent on bicycles during those early years of school, most will spend far more effort on finding excuses as to why cycling is not a current part of everyone's lives than figuring out just how simple it would be to ride a bike. cathy bussey has taken pretty much every reason for not cycling and offered a cogent, persuasive and often curt answer that undermines such blatant silliness...
'It's a bit cold and dark for cycling at the moment, I'll wait until the weather improves before I start'. "Don't be a wimp. Wrap up warm and light your bike up like a Christmas tree. Just a short cycle will raise your heart-rate and warm you up, burn calories and help justify a hot chocolate at the end of your journey."
there are, of course, one or two chapters that are implicitly female. i doubt that too may of us macho sprinters are too concerned over whether to ride through pregnancy, nor will we be rushing to read the ultimate cycling beauty regime. i'd hate to invoke the wrath of cycling's gods by stating that if the girls are not persuaded by the contents of these 128 pages, there's no hope. but i'm probably right.
i would, however, wish to take ms bussey to task on one or two aspects of her text. in the choosing a bike chapter, she states with regard to our beloved road bikes, '...their super-thin tyres are prone to punctures and the wheels are delicate.' as one who has ridden on super-thin tyres and delicate wheels for more than twenty years, i beg to differ. despite the state of islay's ever deteriorating roads, i've yet to break even a spoke and suffer, on average, about one puncture a year. perhaps she ought to take a long look at martyn ashton's 'road bike party 2'. i'm not saying there aren't members of the road bike fraternity that do not suffer as mentioned, but her assertion is somewhat of a generalisation.
and in the actually rather good basic maintenance section, the above is compounded slightly in the description of how to mend a puncture/replace an inner tube. try as i might, i cannot fathom why it is necessary to remove the tyre from the rim completely. generally it only requires one side to be flipped from the rim to remove and replace an inner tube. and though i can comprehend the idea of turning the bicycle upside down to oil the chain (though surely just as simple when the bike is upright?), oiling the outer side of the chain is a bit counter intuitive when it's the inner side that comes into contact with the chainring and sprocket teeth.
nit-picking aside and accepting the over preponderance of pretty girls on bikes (innocuous but a tad unnecessary), this is a truly excellent book. no stone seems to have been left unturned in the aim to persuade today's thoroughly modern girl to adopt the way of the spoked wheel. if you're of the female persuasion, buy it. if you're a bloke, buy a copy for your significant other, even if she already cycles.
copies of the girl's guide to life on two wheels can be ordered from rylandpeters.com
monday 13 january 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................