The five worst things about being a cyclist

Steve Williams vents about the less enjoyable side of riding bikes

A cold virus has murdered my strength and stamina, and stuffed the bodies into my sinuses. I’ve tried riding through the fatigue, I’ve tried rest… I just keep getting slower and weaker. The bodies are wedged tight. Muscle mass plummeting. Lungs gasping. Strava performance dropping.


So I thought I’d share with you some uplifting stories. A celebration of inspirational quotes on adversity that are almost certainly misattributed, because as Lee Harvey Oswald so famously said, ‘Hey John, this is the internet.’

And then I thought, oh no, I’d rather die in a lake of boiling farts. Inspirational quotes make me want to do yoga in front of a sunset just so I can kick people more flexible. Against-the-odds survival stories like 127 Hours are just reminders that humans can, at any moment, be outwitted by a boulder. And mindfulness is a failed attempt to make others burst into flame using just thoughts. A lot of people won’t tell you that.

So this is not a column of rousing positivity to help you through your own low periods. I mean, imagine. Let’s just admit that MY cold is dreadful, YOU should stop being so down on negativity (hypocrites) and NOW is the time to revel in the ways cycling is just the worst.

Ta da! [click here for sad party blower sound effect].

1. Having to explain why bikes are so expensive

Civilians find bike prices unbelievable. But while it’s true you don’t need to pay £3,000 to pootle about, it doesn’t follow that nobody needs a £3,000 bike. That’s like believing nobody needs a parachute because you don’t go skydiving.

Our Bike of the Year – Canyon’s Spectral CF 8.0 EX – totally earns its £3,100 tag. At least half the development costs are in picking which random letters and numbers to confuse people with
Russell Burton / Immediate Media

Anyone who’s looked into nice bikes has suffered bill shock. That’s normal. They’re very expensive (and no, they don’t even have an engine! You should write that down!).

Sadly, it also seems normal to decide there’s no way these incredibly focused, low-production and high-performance machines — largely hand-built to fine tolerances — can really cost that much. This argument applies to parts and even clothing too. Why do you need expensive, well-designed and ace-performing products when you can buy cheap generic stuff that sucks?

So you may have found yourself, like me, defending riders who speed to work in full Lycra from sneering, sit-up-and-beg commuters who refuse to believe there’s any benefit to proper gear over a shiny suit and dull brogues. Those roadies are just showing off!

You may have found yourself being cross-examined by a would-be rider about what bike they should get, only for them to stare at you like you just joined a cult, slowly raise their phone, and click ‘buy’ on a 45lb ‘Off Terrain Bike’ from a supermarket because it has quick-release tyres, a fully-moving fork and comes with three free packets of ham. Only an idiot would pay more than £79!

Who could ask for more?
Bob Embleton / Creative Commons

Bob Embleton / / Creative Commons

And you’ve surely found yourself wasting your breath on the everything’s-a-conspiracy types. These people demand to know how bikes are worth it when they’re already convinced they aren’t, and clearly think you’re a marketing-brainwashed schmuck — no matter how much first-hand experience you have. Not like them! I may not know anything about bikes, but I know you’re wrong!

2. Other riders explaining why your bike is an error

It’s bad enough when the uninitiated lecture you. Having some witless dullard twiddle up in the granny ring of his triple and explain how this 26in-wheeled hardtail with V-brakes and a 110mm stem is all anyone ever needed, and that you’re ‘overbiked,’ is just tiresome.

And yes, it’s always a ‘he’. If you try to make yourself feel better at my expense again, random rider, I’ll sneeze forcefully in both your eyes. One at a time. While stretching them open. With my short liners.

3. Being treated like you speak for all cyclists

Pub friend-of-a-friend turns to you, spilling lager on your shoe:

“Oh, so you’re one of these cyclists? I got knocked down the other day. Nearly. Kamikaze. Not safe to do 20mph on that road. And always jumping red lights, you lot are suicidal, except you know damn well we’ll be the ones hauled up in court when you die. Smug gits. A friend of mine’s had three psychos… cyclists throw themselves over her car just this month, all so abusive she didn’t dare stop. What makes you so aggressive? The world’s going to hell, and not in a handcart — it’s on some track bike that costs more than my car. Well, not my car. Audi RS6. Sport Pack. Loaded.

“Poor girl. Her paintwork’s ruined. Do the police care? No, they’re too busy making money out of muggins here for going 25mph over the limit. I wasn’t even decking out on the school speed bumps, so how can that be speeding?”

More lager spills as he pokes a finger in your chest. “Why do you all act like you own the road?”

Cars don’t kill people, bikes do. And shaved legs. You’ll catch your death of cold, young man
Robert Smith Photography

4. Being told you’ll love Person X because they also ride

You know who loves mountain biking? George W. Bush. Can’t say I’d love hanging out with him, even if these days he’s got a custom fatbike with ‘Weapons of Massive Traction’ on the top tube (don’t worry if you can’t find any evidence, it definitely exists).

Sure, these days Dubya seems like a kindly quantum physics professor in comparison to the latest effort, yet still the logic — Person X owns a bicycle therefore you’ll get on like a house on fire — doesn’t work. I mean, Jon Bon Jovi rides mountain bikes too, and who can forgive him for singing ‘With an ironclad fist I wake up and French-kiss the morning’ without laughing? Or for sending his guitarist to the literal top of a mountain to play the song while everyone else stays in a nice warm apartment? The man’s a monster.

We will not get along like a house on fire. Unless you mean it could involve the emergency services and people tragically not surviving. In which case text me.

5. Human faces when they say ‘Lycra’

Next time a non-rider says ‘Lycra’ — with specific reference to middle-aged men on bicycles — just watch their face. See the flicker of confusion in their eyes. The pain in their forehead. The loathing in their teeth, the gibbering in their cheeks and the tearful chin-wobble as they skitter on the edge of a howling mental void. It’ll break your heart.

It’s in this look you’ll see the truth. The truth is you look less like Nino Schurter or Bradley Wiggins, and more like a haunted mannequin rammed into a child’s PE kit and rolled over a barber’s floor. Seriously, gaze into a non-rider’s eyes and you’ll see your Lycra reflected within. And it will break your heart.


It’s at this point I think we all hope I get better soon.