Below the line

I’ve had some positive comments on the book recently:

michael brough

Hi Paul, just read your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have recently return to cycling after being involved in a range of activities that share many thing in common with hill climbing and cycle clubs in general. Fell running, orienteering and climbing have the same feel of turn up with your mates and do something most people think is a little odd. Some of those taking parting will be as is said on the blurb on the back of your book “ordinary people doing extraordinary things”. I can identify fully with “I was really living in those three minutes”. This was especially the case when I was climbing, when you had to focus on completing the next few difficult moves, nothing was in the mind but those moves. I loved the self-deprecation of your own efforts and the humour. I especially liked and agreed with your view of sportives. Living in Leeds I was out to see the Tour of Yorkshire the Tour de France “legacy” race and a friend of mine paid £40 odd to ride on open roads that he could have ridden with my club any weekend. Smacks of gentrification and commercialisation. I do Audax events myself, village hall, tea and cake and yes don’t look in the car park as people are getting changed for the start.”
I think Michael’s comments serve to highlight one of the aspects or even themes of the book; the search for a soul within cycling and how it’s becoming lost under a welter of consumerist impulses. It’s evident in the amalgamation of cars and bikes as fetish objects, something I’ve written about before at the highest end, but is also now available at a Vauxhall dealership near you…
Drive your Mokka to Honister Pass and park it carefully in the pristine landscape, take bike off, put backback on, tackle strava segment, upload, return, put bike back on car
In this vein, there was an article in the Observer this weekend that explored life at Dulwich Hamlet FC. It seemed to be trying really hard to establish a causal link between hipsters (public enemy number 1) and a grass-roots, authentic footballing experience. It failed. Nonetheless, it’s a great article that looks carefully at the slow tide against the corporate experience that is modern day professional sport. It’s well worth a read. If you like football but feel uneasy at the obscene amounts of cash involved, or love cycling but bridle at the relentless zippsworks commodification of something unerringly simple, then Dulwich Hamlet, or FC United, or any unsponsored cycling club, are the real deal, not a purloined version of authenticity with money at the heart of aspiration.
Of course, I’ve had some negative comments about the book, none more so than Sir Michael Of Hutchinson, who seems to have looked at one picture caption and formed a judgement of the whole tome:
I’m surprised. I thought he was joking at first, perhaps ‘his idea of a plug’ as another esteeemed bikewriter suggested, but he then waded in to anyone who questioned his reading (or non-reading) of the text. Either way, it was a bit of a disappointment. I don’t know if it’s a case of hopeless romanticism, by I imagined that established writers might be prepared to look at a whole text before making a snap judgement. Equally, I imagined they might be supportive of new writers, rather than publicly airing injudicious comments to their 23,000 acolytes. I can only conclude that the monstrous TT behemoth is either a touch thin-skinned or not happy that someone else has written about him, as opposed to him writing about himself. He always seemed like a reasonable chap to me when I met him at TTs (albeit in full fanboy mode), as documented on this blog. I received an articulate response from another CTT National champion:
I had to look up the word ‘sook’. It’s a good one. I will be using it forthwith at every possible opportunity.
Perhaps I’ve missed something, beyond my unconscious and cunningly concealed, snide implication that if the National Hill Climb Championship features ‘Michael Hutchinson and a drainage van, riding downhill on a time trial bike, in a hill climb’, then it might not be the most appropriate event for the discipline, given that none of these things (Michael Hutchinson, drainage van, downhill, time trial bike) feature in any other hill climbs, apart from one other atypical dragfest when it was really really flat and lasted for 17 minutes with a 20mph average speed for the winner.
As for the number of people you can please at a given moment in time; the adage remains true.

3 thoughts on “Below the line

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  1. Big sense of humour failure on his part I think! Do you think some people maybe take themselves too seriously?

  2. Very strange reaction from Hutchinson, could he not see the irony of it, TT bike, downhill, in a hill climb. After all, he does enjoy putting irony and humor in his books, maybe you sell more copies Paul.

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