Chris van Schaick on the cycling species
On a machine that’s halfway between Bradley Wiggins and Call The Midwife, Chris attempts to join the Meon Valley cycling set
In the local garage shop on the A32, I came across a bit of a hard core specimen. He was a chap in his 30s and I could tell from his footwear that he was taking it seriously – his cycling that is. He was wearing those shoes with studs in the bottom which clip straight into bike pedals - A ‘Serious Cyclist’
Living where I do, on a favoured cycle route, I get chance to study the various cycling species – I’ve almost become the David Attenborough of the two-wheeled wildlife. And I don’t just watch the species go past my house. I belong to one myself.
I’m at the bottom of the food chain – one of the blokes who goes out on a bike in jeans and a jumper at the weekend. With my mate Jeff, I do a decent 12-mile round trip on what’s called an intermediate bike - a machine that’s about halfway between Bradley Wiggins and Call The Midwife.
We are never spoken to by the next species up the pecking order – those who wear ‘Proper Cycling Gear’. Further up in the rankings are guys with the ‘proper gear’ – but with logos added – Peugeot, Rabobank, Movistar – or any other cycling sponsors du jour. At the very top sit the chaps with the fully logoed-up ‘proper gear’ but also wearing those shoes with studs that the hard core man had. You can hear them too because they bark “cyclist” at you as they over take.
As on the African savannah, the beasts gather at common watering holes. Caracoli in Alresford is one such place that you can guarantee to find a host of cyclists hovering over a slice of homemade flapjack.
The species share a common language too, or at least a method of speech. Its hallmark is the short burst of talking which is all that’s possible while gulping for air on the uphill incline. There’s no chance to develop your argument. Breath is at a premium, so you have to give your whole world view in a few short words.
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Loitering at my front gate, I often hear these small bursts as the peloton flashes by. Snatches like: “You can get an app which alerts you when…” or “His total package when you take into account car and health insurance is…” or “I said, I’m not being funny but if you think I’m going to believe that…” Just the short bursts. So I never get to find out what happened.
I’m such an inexpert cyclist that of the two names on my bike – Velocity and Ridgeback, I couldn’t tell you which is the make and which is the model. What I do know is that I spent £150 on it the other day in a big overhaul. It may sound excessive but there’s a part of me that doesn’t really mind the spend. I can persuade myself, with a feeling of virtue that I’ve actually worn out several moving parts of the trusty machine on my adventures. Now that everything on the bike has had a re-vamp and the chain has been well-oiled, I am all set for high summer adventures and searches for the best Hampshire coffee shops along the route.