“Allez Gentleman Wiggins!” was the cry from the roadside at the 2012 Tour de France as Sir Bradley Wiggins powered to the top of the podium in Paris; but what is it about cycling that brings out the gentleman in us?
One thing that even professional cyclists will agree is that it’s a tough sport. It’s tough physically and it’s tough mentally. You will see cyclists on the highest roads in the Alps, riding into the wind in the Scottish Highlands and going coast to coast across America. There are times when the legs send a message to the brain saying: ‘that’s enough’. The suffering is intense and it is during this suffering that a man can reveal his true character.
A certain self-reliance and a practical attitude to life are gentlemanly qualities which are demonstrated by using a bicycle. The Channel 4 news anchor John Snow started cycling in London as a young reporter so that he could be the first to arrive at a breaking story. He still cycles every day to and from work and avoids the drudgery of a commute on a crowded train or the frustration of being stuck in traffic. Our political leaders are often seen on a bike and whilst cynics claim that this is part of an image manipulation exercise, it cannot be completely staged as they seem to continue even when the media spotlight is not on them.
The Brompton folding bicycle can be part of this self-reliance. A quick ride to that station, jump on the train and fold up the bike (it’s remarkably quick to do) and then breeze through the traffic at the other end to arrive at work with a smile. It’s also a great example of British design and there are others. Brooks saddles are globally known for their craftsmanship, Rapha clothing sell suit jackets which are cut to allow free movement and Dashing Tweeds have reflective tweed caps.
The freedom of the open road and the sense of adventure is a suitable antidote for the nine-to-five routine. A polar expedition takes years of preparation and planning; a bike ride involves pumping up tyres and packing a map. The scale of the challenge is up to you! The British Heart Foundation London to Brighton ride has participants of all ages and abilities on closed roads. Paris-Brest-Paris, which is held every four years, is 1200km non-stop and is only suitable for those with a high level of fitness.
For city dwellers, a bicycle gives quick access to the countryside and the joy of watching the concrete slowly change to open fields warms the heart. Deer and rabbits don’t always hear cyclists and if the wind is blowing in the other direction you can cycle right up to them. If you take a rucksack you can pick up fresh farm eggs. Small village pubs are a welcoming lunch venue and most of all you are filling your lungs with fresh air!
As spring turns into summer it’s the perfect time for gentlemen to enjoy the simple pleasures of the bicycle.