Monday 3 December 2012

Cambridge Cycling Bestiary

I can't be the only person to notice that if you cycle a similar routes every day you see the same other cyclists. Some only come out in Summer, some are year rounders, some are welcome sites while others fill you with fear.

I wonder, though, am I the only person to give each of them a name and an imagined back-story?

One, for example, is The Kaiser. Don't see him every day, in fact I see him a few times a year. He wears a helmet that looks rather like a First World War German army helmet - complete with spike on top. In my head he's a direct descendant of Kaiser Wilhelm, and he's riding to college to gain the education he needs to bring us (the English) down from the inside.

Another is Testosterone Man. He's an old chap (relative to me), he's clearly gone 60, he's got an old road bike with rather chunky tires, and he will keep insisting on 'racing' me. By which I mean if I go past him (because I'm simply going quicker) he's got to get back past me, no matter how knackered he'll be by the time he's done so, meaning I'll pass him again and leave him behind. On occasion he's jostled me from behind at lights. Once, memorably, he slid off and skidded in to me from behind at a red light, such was his haste to brake at the last possible moment. I now refuse to make eye contact with him, and only pass him on a burst of speed such that he can't answer by trying to keep up. He's simply too tedious. Clearly his story is that he's been a racing car driver all his life, and he just can't help himself.

Then there's Little Chopper. He's got an electric powered chopper style bike - and he can't QUITE obey red lights. He can NEARLY do so, but for some reason if there are six cyclists in an ASL he's got to go out in front of us - and then go just not quite fast enough to be worth drafting. I don't know whether he's got some physical disability that requires that he must ride a leccy bike, but I'm pretty sure his brain is somehow addled from the days when he was top Elvis impersonator in Bridlington.

Less charitably I find that I see Uber Woman a couple of times per week. She used to me monumentally huge when she started cycling (or, rather, when I first saw her on my route). Now she's still large but it looks like cycling has done her the world of good. Great to see that. Another cyclist once suggested that she walks around with the bike wedged between her cheeks all day; I disagree, I think she's the real life version of the superhero Bella Emberg used to be on the Russ Abbott show, off to fight crime and right wrongs wherever she may find them. Whatever her story, she's a living embodiment of the good cycling can do for you, although perhaps also a reminder that merely riding around the flat streets of Cambridge isn't the most exercise you can have.

Worst of all is Marboro Man. He's got a Marlboro leather jacket, a Boardman bike, he rides almost the same route as me, and he doesn't understand the rules. I pass him maybe two days a week - and he will then immediately sail past me at the next red lights. I did once tell him that if he spent as much time working on his basic cadence as he did second guessing the traffic lights he'd be twice the cyclist he is now, but he blanked me - I think he works at the Business School, which would make sense of things. Probably teaching a course in Advanced Ass Hole Skills.

I could go on and describe more of Cambridges cycling bestiary, but it occurs to me that having so many regulars make me rather lucky in some ways. We're not some trivial minority here, we're mainstream - folk of all types ride their bikes here, and all thats really holding cyclists of Cambridge back is that we don't stand together and demand that we must have the very best of all facilities. I guess my point (if I even have one, and I've kind of forgotten whether I did) is that we're not some unified group of 'cyclists' - we're a glorious mishmash of differences. And in my opinion, thats what those of us who are interested in what could bring cyclists together have to embrace.


  1. is the vagrant on a bike blasting heavy metal from a bag still seen in the city centre?

    1. yup.

      I can't quite work out the story for quite-successful-looking-lady-on-dilapidated bike. I find it so painful to ride behind her (I'm not a big one for passing) because her back wheel looks like it's ABOUT to collapse, it's so painful.

      Does she have a Miss. Haversham-esque relationship to her bike? Must it remain in exactly the same condition it was in when... ?

    2. I'd miss heavy metal dude if he stopped cycling about. I think he was approached in a dream by the gods of Valhalla who told him to bring the gift of Rock to Cambridge.