i think i may have touched on this subject before, but probably quite some time ago. the notion was re-introduced by a letter in the comic this week (yes, i read too many letters). for about the past 14 years i have struggled manfully to interest the population of islay in pedalling bicycles around our green and pleasant land. there was a brief period in the mid-nineties where there was a large enough group of folks sufficiently interested in cycling to allow the formation of an islay cycle club, to go for organised sunday rides and to hold monthly time-trials.
but such is the nature of islay life, that these sort of things rarely last for long as people move on and off the island. at the moment, things may well be on the up again (everything is cyclical - pun intended) since i have the directeur sportif of vc port wemyss with whom to go cycling on a sunday, the latest addition to our police force is a keen road cyclist, and one of the teachers at the school is showing enthusiasm in the right direction.
however, things like the badminton club, the masters' swimming club, the inevitable foootball clubs and golf, all show considerably greater numbers of participants than cycling on islay has ever managed to show. the same may well be true throughout the rest of the highlands - i don't know - but the only area i figure i can spread the word is on islay. and that word would like to be reasonably fast cycling on road bike machinery as opposed to mountain biking, though the uptake of the latter was just as poor if not worse.
anyway, to eventually get to the point, the letter in the comic paid heed to the fact that those of us who are regular comic readers, by definition, cycling enthusiasts, tend to have a rather arrogant attitude towards those on cheap and nasty bikes (yes, i have to hold my hand up here) with the oft expressed opinion that anything less than about seven or eight hundred pounds is not worth having. while i pretty much have to agree with the writer (who is apparently having a museeuw of a time on a 'cheapie') about the attitude of the comic et al, i also have to agree that spending thousands, while particularly satisfying, is really not necessary unless one wishes to compete at a particularly advanced level (i can't quite imagine chris boardman winning olympic gold on a sub £300 raleigh).
however, while this is a perfectly plausible explanation for the lack of the younger generation partaking of a fast cycle round islay, or anywhere else for that matter, i was giving myself a metaphorical slap on the wrist for having been party to this false propaganda while taking the dog for a walk (multi-tasking is one of my few talents)and a reactionary thought raised its not so ugly head.
one of the 'younger generation' that i remember training for cycle proficiency not all that many years ago, passed in a motor car. a motor car that he owns, a motor car that he drives fast, a motor car that has more than a passing interest in fibreglass body kits, and a motor car that has a set of alloy wheels with those ever-so-popular low profile, fat tyres. now while this is not a brand new vehicle, it's a lot newer than my own car, and seemed to have cost a penny or two more as well.
so i did my research before putting fingers to powerbook keyboard, and checked out the cost of a set of alloy wheels with corresponding tyres (google comes in so very hand you know). the cheapest set of both that i could find came in at just under £350, though i couldn't find out if this was for four wheels and tyres, or five. many sets were considerably dearer but since i don't understand car wheel sizes, i have no idea what price this chap would have had to pay for the alloys on his own car. add in the cost of insuring such a sporty vehicle for a 17 or 18 year old, the car tax, the petrol, the sporty seats, the tinted glass etc., etc, and i think the cost of an entry level road bike would somehow pale into insignificance.
and this teenager is very much in the majority round these here parts, as may well be the case in other parts of the country. the practicality of having a motor car on the scottish isles should not be taken lightly - public transport is not what it could be and there is none whatsoever after 6pm monday to saturday, and none at all on sundays. so it is perhaps more of a necessity for teenagers in the more rural areas and islands to have a motor car. but body kits, tinted glass, alloy wheels and wide tyres are not necessities, and nor is a souped up engine. if you saw the state of the roads over here you'd wonder why they don't all drive land-rovers.
i grant you that all the teenagers that i know over here who have cars are unlikely to have any interest in nice italian bike jewellery, let alone a propensity for pedalling themselves round the island on such, but i think that levelling an argument such as that put forward by the comic's letter contributor may not be the whole answer.
yes a nice road bike with top notch componentry can be frighteningly expensive, and will only appeal to those with a matching bank balance and/or enthusiasm for such trinketry but you can currently purchase a pinarello surprise with ultegra and mavic wheels for under £800. the rest is free.
it is perfectly possible to purchase a considerably cheaper road bike, and with a good dose of tlc, keep it in as new condition for a long time and enjoy yourself as much as i do on my colnago. the main differences between the cheapest frame and the dearest frame are weight and resilience. cheap components work just as well as the expensive stuff when new, it's just that the latter continues to do so for longer and shines more.
so the next time someone uses cost as an argument for not partaking of the world's greatest joy, just remember the above before any pangs of guilt or subdued arrogance kick in.
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek)
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to, and the next ride takes them from st malo to biarittz and then across the raid pyrenees. so i have. and here it is.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, ibook and imac computers, using adobe golive 5 and adobe photoshop 7. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.