Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Cycle Tribes: Lycra Lads

As you may have guessed from the picture, this isn't going to be a particularly technical bike blog. I've only just found out the name of the part that the steed needed transplanting- a derailer. It doesn't sound like a particularly useful thing to have on a vehicle to be honest, but if it gets him back on the road I'm happy.

Clearly, for someone who spends quite so much time on two wheels (about an hour and half most days, and often much more at weekends) I know very little about the workings of my bicycle. And to be honest, this is motivated by more than just apathy and flagrant gender stereotyping. I associate a detailed knowledge of different brands of tyre with one of the tribes I share the road with- the Lycra Lads.

There are several variations on this theme, but lets begin with the basics. They're easy to spot, and in any rush hour  line up will make up about half of the riders. Predominately male, members of this tribe ride drop-handle racers or fixies, and clothe themselves in skin-tight, high tech clothing. They'll ofen have gadgets attached to the handlebars, measuring goodness knows what stats to be carefully collated on a spreadsheet in the evening.

What never fails to amuse me is the sense that the road is their battlefield. Clearly, 200 years ago these men would have marched in the infantry, hunted, gathered and fulfilled their masculine duty in all manner of outdoorsy ways. Now (I assume) locked in offices pushing pixels around, all that competitive energy only finds outlet on the daily commute. The sideways, narrow-eyed glances at traffic lights say it all. In a second the other riders are appraised for speed, agility and price of kit. Waiting behind, irrelevant due to the handbag sitting prettily in my basket and complete lack of lycra, I can almost hear mental engines revving . The lights change and they're off in an invisible cloud of exhaust, straining to surge to the front and win alpha dog status.

Until the next set of lights. At which point all the rest of us (beskirted with baskets, or on Bromptons wearing suits) catch them up.And smile, less sweatily, and a little bit smugly.


  1. I always thought it was derailleur - but wikipedia (anathema to researchers - I know) says I can have either. I'm thinking of getting the red spotted lycra outfit you mum and I saw last week. All this is just trivia - I just wanted to be the first to comment on the blog!

  2. Ah, but you are missing the point... it's fun and not taken too seriously by most http://www.bikeradar.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=12575770

  3. That's actually really funny, thanks. Good to know!