As if being British wasn’t an awkward enough experience, adding two wheels, lycra and a whole set of additional etiquette to the situation is a recipe for discomfort of exquisite proportions. Not that any British cyclist would ever tell you that. They’ll probably just tut under their breath instead.
(Also no, this is not a list of problems faced by British Cycling. Though we are sure some would apply.)
1. Immobilizing politeness. You reach a roundabout at the same time as two other people. Everyone spends the next few minutes confusingly offering the right of way to everyone else, smiling in a desperately embarrassed fashion. Then everyone moves slightly forward at the exact same moment, before stopping again and apologizing profusely. After nearly five minutes, the situation resolves itself.
2. Endangering politeness. You have a bicycle bell with which you can alert the pedestrian in front of you of your imminent arrival. But you don’t want to ring it too loudly in case you startle them. Instead you opt for a half-hearted ding, accompanied by ‘excuse me!’.
3. Stuffed closets. Variety is a nice term you could use to describe British weather. Britain has all the weather, often all on the same day. As a result, many British cyclists tend to own every single conceivable type and variety of cycling garment to suit every condition.
4. Stuffed jersey pockets. Had we mentioned that Britain has a lot of weather? It also has a lot of rain. In consequence, British cyclists will carry waterproofs with them almost all the time. Particularly if they’ve ever trusted a rain-free weather forecast only to be caught out by a completely unexpected downpour.
5. Awkward conversations. You arrive at the traffic lights only for an acquaintance to roll up beside you. You either try to pretend you haven’t seen them so you don’t have to engage in conversation, or after saying hello make awkward conversation while praying for the lights to change.
6. Awkward purchases. Upon entering a bike shop simply to browse, you realise you are the only person in there and the staff are extremely friendly and attentive. You feel guilty and purchase something you don’t need.
The horror! Stationary and side to side with strangers…with the only thing that could be worse is actually knowing someone you get stopped next to. Luis Davilla / Getty
7. Politely swallowing rage. You let a bicycle/car/other vehicle out at a junction. They don’t wave to say thank you. Almost uncontrollable waves of rage wash through your body. You mutter ‘you’re welcome!’ under your breath, all the while keeping a straight face and a stiff upper lip.
8. Politely swallowing coffee. Cultivating, if not a taste for coffee, at least a passible facial expression that suggests you like it, even though you’d much rather have a cup of tea at your mid-ride cake stop. (Note to Brits: Riders all over the world stop for coffee and snacks, but only in England is a ‘cake stop’ a thing.)
9. Death before dishonour, part I. You move to overtake a cyclist. As you pass them, you realise they are actually going faster than you first thought. You abandon your zoned training and keep up an uncomfortably fast pace, while attempting not to look like you are trying, in order to stay ahead of them, praying you are not going the same route for long.
10. Death before dishonour, part II. Nearly dying at the pace of the club ride, but responding ‘yes, that was fine’ when asked. Then having to either resign yourself to traumatic rides every Saturday from here until eternity or faking your own death, moving to South America, and taking up weaving.
Got any more to add? Pop them in the comments section below.