THE BLOG

Bikes, Bondage And Batman

19/12/2016 13:06

Call me a hopeless romantic, but wasn't there a time when cycling a bike was synonymous with enjoyment? It meant rolling up your flappy clothing, hopping onto an old boneshaker and merrily pedalling along to your intended destination - a friend's house, through a park or down the local.

You sometimes even cycled somewhere just for pleasure (remember that word 'pleasure', it's important). You'd enjoy the sheer pleasure of cycling through the countryside - unhindered, free, at one with nature...the wind in your hair, the smell of manure in your nostrils...well, you get the idea. But not anymore.

Cycling today has become much more than merely 'riding a bike'. It is now - brace yourselves - a mass-fetishistic cult activity driven by a desire to inflict physical self-pain without any form of cerebral happiness to compensate. In short, cycling has now transformed itself from being a joyful to a joyless experience.

Setting aside the need for safety (we'll come to that later), the modern cyclist is a dark, brooding Darth Vader-like character, kitted out not for pleasure but for anguish. The Lycracycla is tightly moulded from head to toe within a skin-tight membrane topped by an avocado-shaped helmet preventing any 'wind in the hair' (or wind anywhere else) experience' so beloved of old.

And the modern cyclist doesn't stop there (or at red lights either) but continues this sensory deprivation with must-have 'wrap around' sunglasses to ensure that not the slightest glimmer of sunshine or scenery makes its way into that part of the brain which appreciates and responds to beauty. Oh yes, don't forget the obligatory 'fitbit' and pulse watches strapped firmly onto the wrist - all accoutremental to the high altar of modern cycling. The statement of intent is crystal clear: Lycra is In. Nature is Out.

Cycling is now a 'strapping-on' kind of activity: strapped-on elbow protectors, strapped-on wristbands, strapped-on trainers. Strapping men and strapping women, strapping themselves ever more firmly into strappingly expensive cycling equipment as soon as it's conceived, manufactured and marketed by people who mostly drive to work in Porsches.

What all this equipment is, or does, isn't really the point. It just has to be capable of being strapped on and ripped off with a satisfying Velcroed urgency. Cycle-wear has to be tight, firm, stretchy and skin-like - a womb that costs a bomb. It has to be lightweight and supportive, yet restrictive, aerodynamic and anodyne. If it's eye-wateringly expensive, so much the better. Pain, like all the best fetishes, always responds to a high price.

Add headphones for total self-absorption and the modern cyclist becomes completely self-contained, nothing permeating the body, nothing touching the soul - least of all joy. Come to think of it, the Lycracyclist is not so much Darth Vader as Batman: bleak and menacing - a tormented anti-hero for an ungrateful, post-modern world. Misunderstood by pedestrians, unloved by motorists and pathologically tortured.

This 'fetishism' is not the by-product of cycling; it is its very raison d'etre. Cycling is the Name. Bondage is the Game. And don't forget the pain. Cycling is serious, expensive S&M and incomplete without the hurt. The burn in the lungs, the relentless pressure in the head and the continual wear and tear brought about by an unforgiving saddle (Madam Sin would be impressed. If only she'd thought of opening a cycle track instead of a Dungeon). For the modern cyclist, overriding all physical pain is, of course, the perpetual anguish of having to share the road with motorists.

It's dangerous on the roads, especially for cyclists. Traffic is fast and preoccupied. But wrapping up in Lycra, shades, headphones, and Velcro to cycle round say Richmond Park*, isn't engaging with the world - it's retreating from it as fast as it passes by.

And as for finishing the day with a throbbing pain in your nether regions - well, for men at least, there's always Madam Sin - and she may work out a lot cheaper.

*a natural wildlife spot in London - except when they're culling the Deer

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