Maybe the Opera Stole all their Vowels

I came across this whilst disappearing into a christmas-shaped smartphone k-hole of child supervision:

It’s really something. In fact, it’s right up there with the cycling collective in terms of commodification and monetisation of the great outdoors and free activities and basic social or human functions.

ride free

I’m intrigued by the proposition. Last time I checked, riding your bike was free. Not just the first time you ride it, but the next time, and the next time. Having a bike and friends is the gift that keeps on giving (not that gift, that’s a different gift which I wouldn’t dare describe on a prudish blog like this) and if you haven’t got easy access to chums then there are lots of clubs and informal groups which freely extend the fellowship of the road, for FREE. Failing that, you can do what I do, and plot a route carefully, or even just go out the door and ride. There is no toll gate at the front door.

Oh wait, fuck that, why don’t you just cough up and pay these charlatans to lead you on a merry dance around the suburbs of London’s famous London.

WTF is this

Not quite sure what it is that costs £5 here. The group safety briefing? The coffee you pay for? Not being dropped? Thanks – that’ll be £5 for us to wait for you. We really care. We’re prefect (sic) for beginners.


The three two readers of this blog may treat this claim with a degree of scepticism; but I try to be honest and open to new things. I am a welcoming person. Just witness my kindness towards the latest in a long line of pro-kit wearing backmarkers to cross my path. I can do this. However, this kind of larceny is utterly horrid. Genuinely, it’s a heist. It’s the zenith of metropolitan capitalism, where every single thing is absorbed and monetised, a pound sign slapped on it and a package created to sell to those people who don’t believe it can work on largesse alone, there must be a fiscal contract in order for it to have a real value.

I think there’s also an irritating subtext which gets on my tits. It’s the view that somehow ‘traditional’ clubs are an anachronism, out of touch with the modern world. They are a closed shop and somehow intimidating. This is also a pile of bollocks. The myth of the ‘no drop’ rule; it’s a crock of shit. No-one gets dropped, ever, unless they are expressly informed prior to the ride that if they get dropped no-one is waiting, and that’s because it’s a chaingang and is going at 26mph for 45 miles, and if you go on one of those without a clear head and a clean pair of cleats then you’re asking for trouble. It’s called training for racing. These are rare, and a closed shop, invite only. The noob sits at the back with the tritards in case he starts playing domino rally. Every other club run ever is a friendly, welcoming affair.

I’m sure that people do enjoy this and gain benefit from it, but not as much as the founders do in taking the corporate pound. If they are that keen on getting beginners riding and showing how wondrous they are, then they should lose the price tag. Speaking of k-holes, every click reveals a deeper layer of doublethink and corporate slurry.

wtf 2

Each click brings new layers of virtual horror. “The first truly social cycling club”. Let that roll around for a bit. Really. Roll it around your douchehole, pay the £90 for a year and get each ride for £4.95 instead of £5.00. What a bargain.


Epic Rides and the Spinkatron

Sometimes I think I’ve done an epic ride and I sit back, smug at the 70 miler I’ve casually spuffed out. I then check on strava to see how it measures up against my peers, only to be confronted by some slab of degenerate madness.


And I think, well, at around the 70 mile mark when I was limping home through Whitchurch, legs like rotting pieces of whale blubber quivering on the shoreline, old Spinky and Gesink had another 137 miles to go and were just getting warmed up.

I’ve never ridden 137 miles in one go in my life, let alone 207. I have ridden 100 miles or more on two occasions. Once in a time trial, and once on tour. I have no plans to repeat either event. Maybe I’m just jealous.



I went out for a ride yesterday, the last hurrah. I had plans to go big, do hills, make a statement ahead of the new year. I ended up doing one of those odd loops when you don’t stick to your pre-planned route and don’t really know what you want to do, and it’s raining and not raining at the same time. The roads were full of cyclists, doubtless with the same noble intentions, get one more in. Or they were fighting some sort of losing battle with the festive 500 and slogging themselves into the ground in a futile attempt to ride really far without hating themselves and the bike and the weather, and then posting it on the internet with lots and lots of hashtags and new acronyms.

I rode up Clarken Coombe, then across and round the back of Ashton Court. Up ahead, I could see someone out of the gloaming, sporting Team Sky kit in all their noobmamil glory. For some reason, I was feeling polite, amiable. Maybe it was a New Year’s Eve sentiment, each to his own, that sort of thing. As he approached I gave a cheery nod and a wave, which was reciprocated in kind. At which point I realised it was Geraint Thomas, and nearly wet myself. The three longstanding readers of this blog who have put up with silence of late, to the extent that there are now only two, one of whom is my mother and the other is my father-in-law, will recognise that he is a favourite at Traumfahrrad Towers.

G was much enamoured of my Cycling Plus buff from 2008 and my DHB windslam jacket.

Luckily, the Olympic, Commonwealth, World and National Champion, not to mention winner of Paris Nice, E3 Harelbeke, Volta ao Algarve and lots of other stuff, was held up at the lights so I was able to get on without having a double hernia and brutal prolapse from the effort. I asked him for a photo and he was really friendly and engaging. I later retold the whole encounter to my comrades in the South. By later, I mean seconds later, as soon as I physically could. My ride was ruined anyway, my head completely scrambled.

I also said “I raced against you once… actually… let me rephrase that… I was in the same race that you were in once, the National Championships at Celtic Manor in  2014”. He laughed a bit, just a little. We talked about Bristol City and Cardiff City being rivals; he’s a big Blues fan and was heading to the game later that day. Other titbits – he’s not doing Tour of Catalunya because he doesn’t like it and bad stuff happens there. We rode back into town and across the Suspension Bridge, which he liked a lot. People rode past the other way and I waved at them whilst I was out riding with Geraint Thomas. It was simultaneously amazing and really bizarre. Although I think people might have thought one of us was a bearded old guy in DHB kit and the other a full-on PKW, so maybe it went straight over their heads.

In amongst the instagram fraternity, the response oscillated between outright wonder and amazement, and outright anger at the lack of mudguards. I put the ride on strava where is also got a lot of attention. Some chums checked the heart-rate trace and identified a spike right at the point where our paths crossed.


It shot through the roof; an utter palpitating explosion of excitement.

Lastly; it was the perfect end to the year, and it’s easy and also quite romantic to see it as a sign of a brighter time. This year has been tough. It’s been tough to write, to do things that are important and to keep things in balance. I feel like there is a way forwards, and I’m perfectly happy to artificially place Geraint Thomas as the key to it, the meeting at the crossroads, a guiding and utterly serendipitous presence, saying that everything is going to be OK.

Let’s hope so anyway, because the last Team Sky rider I met on Beggars’ Bush Lane had a bit of a rum time in the ensuing months.