Of late I’ve managed to scrape a few bits and pieces into everyone’s favourite cycling rag, The Comic. Last Sunday I was tasked to do the write-up for the RTTC Classic Series. I think Fraser Snowdon puts these my way because he suspects, rightly, that I’m one of a kind with the testerati and know certain obscure details about the Masonic code. Nonetheless, it was a plum assignment, proper Martha Gellhorn stuff, with some cycling royalty taking part – Alex (not Alec, typo fans) Dowsett, a rider who has variously won National Championships, Grand Tour stages and held the hour record. I was instructed to ring him and see if I could get some quotes. Astonishingly, he answered, and did a 15 minute phone interview. He is a very nice chap. This meant the article ended up in the front pages of this week’s rag, with the race report in the back. It was a very juicy double page spread. I’ll put the full transcript up in a little while.
It’s not much, a short article with a neat structure, but I’m thrilled. I’ll write soon about the series of Damascene conversions that led to me a. writing articles for the Comic, and b. writing them whilst wearing only a pair of Rapha Pro Team bib shorts.
It’s a generally accepted truth that Rapha make some nice kit. They also charge an arm and a leg for most of it. Aside from that, Rapha have proven adept at marketing a representation of cycling; mining the past for gritty truths, digging down until they hit a seam of glistening heroism, then selling it on for their slavering punters.
Their latest wheeze is a global cycling club with an annual membership fee of £200 and a limited number of members. Any application requires a 100-word tiebreaker describing ‘the perfect ride’. I could have a go now; “Any ride completed in its entirety without the presence of a ‘rider’ clad head-to-toe in rapha threads, astride an overpriced and underused bongo-rocket.”
There is a huge amount of ire aimed at Rapha, most of it from people who baulk at the constant self-mythologising, over-priced trinkets and endless epicness. The new ‘club’ consists of 16 ‘chapters’. Last time i saw anyone who was a member of a ‘chapter’ they were all heading off to do some motorpacing.
Like all modish industries, Rapha have a ‘brand manager’. I suspect they have a host of other 21st Century job titles on offer, . According to the Raphaspeak, each ‘chapter’ has a ‘concierge’ who is able to help the hapless Raphanaut navigate the mean streets of an unforgiving new urban environment and serve up a complimentary flat white, no doubt with some funkalicious latte art and grainy footage of Belgian hard men to inspire the current generation of weekend warriors. An identical Rapha in every identical global city? Check.
The motto for the new club is “Ex Duris Gloria” or something like that. There’s a startling disconnect between any notion of suffering and the reality of this enterprise. Rapha is just another bogus symptom of late era capitalism (although even the term ‘late capitalism’ seems irrevelant, the system just marches on in a rapacious, money-grabbing goosestep). It fits securely within Baudrillard’s notion of simulacra and simulation, saving the cycling principle for legions of soft-pedaling schmucks, seduced by a hideously expensive fluffing and packaged softshell heroism. Rapha have elevated the concept of suffering with no accompanying reality. It is the apotheosis of the hollowness of modern bike riding and the shabby, empty lives of the current wave of corporate acolytes, lured away from a life on the golf course by the promise of a new kind of perjured authenticity.
I’ve been somehow managing to sustain the base mileage over the past two weeks. it might even be three weeks, i’m not sure. i think that base mileage is somehow akin to the seminal ‘wax-on, wax-off’ sequence in the karate kid, whereby the hapless bullied child is reduced to some sort of slave labour for an old foreign man with bad english and a bad goatee, when all he really wanted to do was learn karate. he fails to see any connection between his sub-minimum wage endeavours and the future black belt bully-slayer he wants to be. and yet, when mr miyagi comes at him with his japanese fists blazing, daniel-san knows innately how to respond.
this is how base mileage works. endless repetitive slave labour, chipping away at the coalface of cycling-drudgery, unsure of why or how it might be of any benefit. yet come the start of the season form is fast arriving and bad-goateed funny looking men in lycra are swiftly dealt with by a forearm to the chops.
this week’s double dose of sand the floor, wax on, wax off, consisted of a ride to cheltenham and a spin around the mendips, both fixed. the ride to cheltenham was a blast up and over the cotswolds, including one of my favourite climbs out of wotton-under-edge, with another lengthy ascent to painswick before the drop down to ‘nham. i learnt two things: a long ride in one direction on fixed is infinitely easy with a gift of a tailwind, and my top speed with a 68″ gear is 33mph, or a cadence of 165rpm.
today i went out with kieran and steve. kieran is quite close to acquiring honorary membership of team douchebag. i haven’t told him this yet, but if he keeps up with the riding and the racing i see no reason why we might not confer on him such an amazing honour. he is quite strong at the moment. steve is probably quite strong too, although his form has dipped this year, and he spent much of last week getting drunk on a TGV and eating some really weird french fondue with an egg and a schnitzel on top. during today’s ride he resolutely refused to raise his heart-rate, and even said prior to Burrington that he was going to ‘twiddle his way up’. he was not joking. Steve also didn’t have any mudguards on his bike, which was pretty shocking for someone of his stature and pedigree. it’s a good job he didn’t do the club run, that’s all i can say, because he would have suffered the indignity of being tutted at by the old guard, and possibly even dropped by the lags. it was a matter of principle for him i think. he stuck to his guns. i haven’t seem him like this since his fabled ‘lardons in poland’ trip.
graham, the third doucheteer, didn’t make it out today because he went riding in wales yesterday. i use the active verb ‘riding’ with caution. he rode up the gospel pass to hay on wye, it’s around 70 miles with a shedload of climbing. he did it on a 68″ fixed wheel. then, just to compound matters, he rode back again, making it a round 135 miles for the day. (before i go any further i want to say here and now that this kind of riding is monstrous) Apparently he walked on some of the steeper sections – the minor 25%+ bits. We mocked him mercilessly for this today, along the lines of; ‘here steve, did you hear this? graham took his bike to Wales yesterday so he could go for a walk‘. my combined mileage for the weekend is some 40 miles short of what Graham, Henry (a giant of a man who rides a 25″ woodrup) and Gary did in one deranged and mental excursion. i texted him yesterday to ask if he was coming out this morning; his succinct reply was: ‘NOT fucking riding tomorrow bastard’.