going to be my job to be different. This has never been a problem. I
don't fit in anywhere. Don't race. Don't mtb. Don't commute, because
that would imply steady employment. Just ride for pleasure, often on
busy urban roads. I'm not very good at it, if speed is the issue. But
I hardly ever fall off or crash into anything. Perhaps that will be
my epitaph: "He hardly ever fell off or crashed into anything. Except
that one last time." I don't even use my bike for many errands,
not since my last one was stolen.
The replacement was a titanium model. "The kind only a bike journo would
have," a bike store guy told me, inflating my job description to bursting
point. I bring it into shops unless I'm told not to, in which case I
prefer to go elsewhere.
Several years ago I wrote for Cycling Today,
a competitor. Maybe you read CT. Chances are you didn't,
or it would still be in print and hiding behind Knitting Patterns
Today in WHSmith. My page was a quiet bylane off the rest of the
magazine. I plan to write the same column for Cycling Plus, at
least until the editor tells me to stop. "It's just not working out,"
I imagine he'll say, perhaps as soon as the next issue. "After your
piece implying Hilary Stone wears ladies undergarments we even had a
death threat. I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to worry.
But now you know. Our insurance doesn't cover that sort of thing. We'll
be sorry to see you go, but it's for the best, really."
Rather than tease with ominous predictions, perhaps I should give you
an idea what to expect. Sure, I've already contributed stories to C+.
Those were dates. Doing it once a month is like getting married.
Future engagements aren't going to be like this one, for a start. I
don't usually explain myself so thoroughly or simply. This laying of
cards on the table in uncomplicated declarative sentences is a fluke.
It would be much safer to buckle yourself in for random flights of fancy.
There's going to be some fiction. Fiction shouldn't cause much turbulance,
should it? The book stores are full of it, and it seems to sell well
enough. You won't always be able to tell what's fiction and what's not,
but that's a little like life. I'll also compose multiple-choice
quizzes. And give advice. If any of you want my help with anything
not already answered by one of the more traditionally qualified experts
in this magazine, get in touch and I'll try to help. That's not a promise.
That's far from a promise. Your query needs to catch my eye without
poking it out. What does that mean? You decide.
I'll write satire, and parodies, and maybe even pastiches – which
sounds like and may in fact be a French tyre patch. Only rarely do I
plan to attempt something serious. For the most part I'll leave that
to sensible people with compelling viewpoints. I admire anyone who can
write persuasively and with a style of their own, never mind the topic.
A moving treatise on chain lubrication has the power to bring a tear
to the eye. A good bike review is a work of art. There's a need for
these things, which is why Cycling Plus prints them. And now
the editor has set aside a page for less serious matters, which takes
an almost breathtaking bravado. "I trust you," he told me, and although
I'm making that up it has an authentic ring to it.
Putting together a cycling magazine isn't an easy job. There's all that
folding and stapling, and more than a fair share of papercuts. Editing
it can't be any picnic, either. I understand that as this issue was
going to press Hilary Stone lost an arm-wrestling match to Carlton Reid,
and to fulfil the terms of a wager had to agree to wear scratchy lace
lingerie while adding the finishing touches to his Retro column. He
complained to Tony, who brokered a compromise involving natural fibres.
Thus was mutiny averted. I could never do that sort of thing; I haven't
the interpersonal skills.
When handing over this space, Tony commanded me to be "entertaining
and thought-provoking." If that last paragraph didn't provoke some thoughts
I'd be very surprised.
I would now like to apologise to Hilary, who was used for illustrative
purposes only. I could have chosen Simon Withers, who I happen to know
for a fact has a personal account at Agent Provocateur, but as Simon
is production editor and has a great deal of control over my words I
opted for the hopefully good-natured Stone instead – who incidentally
has forgotten more about bicycles in the time it has taken you to read
this sentence than I may ever learn, though for a raise I'll take a
Like everyone else involved in this enterprise, I love cycling. Unlike
most everyone else, I'm not packing any specialised knowledge. And I
intend to prove it. Hope you enjoy the ride.
was written for Cycling Plus in 2002 to introduce a column aptly called