Sunday 22 April 2018

Cycling is the new golf

At least when men played golf, they weren't in the way of Sarah Carey, who resents the current biking craze

Sarah Carey is not a fan of the current cycling phase. Stock photo
Sarah Carey is not a fan of the current cycling phase. Stock photo
Sarah Carey

I've been trying to figure out when cycling became the new golf, and why cycling bugs me much more than golf.

Remember golf? When men wanted to hang out with each other securely liberated from the company of women, they played golf. They could do their deals, bond, wear silly clothes, admire the scenery, have a pint afterwards and come home in a good mood. In a previous life, when I ran corporate golf days, I never saw a woman play at those events. Technically, they could, but didn't. It just wasn't done.

The best thing about golf is that anyone can play. Old people. Fat people. Which was great when old, fat men ran the world.

Now young, slim men run the world. Fitness has become a cult in the technology companies that produce the current ruling aristocracy. One poor chap I know complained that when his company was making a corporate video, they demanded shots of employees doing active, outdoor things. My pal, a literary soul, didn't dare suggest they shoot him reading a book. Ironman: cool. Readingman: not cool. Except on a long-haul flight. Then it's cool.

It's not that I don't know women who cycle, but they use it as a form of transport. That's what bikes are for.

Men are attracted by much more than mere utilitarianism. Although there's the camaraderie of the pack, it's competitive, cultivating individual performance over a team sport such as football. Personally, I don't trust men who believe that masochistic exercise makes them better people. I think it makes them harder, meaner people, who believe that suffering is key to accomplishment. I'm sure there's a link between the theology of extreme sport and cruelty to other human beings.

They can even compete with equipment. You can spend only so much on football boots, but you can turn a bike into a fetish. Did you know a bike can cost €6,000? It outrages my sense of housekeeping.

The latent homosexuality that pervades all male activity can be accommodated not just in the kinky clothes, but with the shaving nonsense, too.

And so, observe the Sons of Industry, when they could be having sex with their wives or mistresses, cycling up the road at the weekends. Observe me, stuck behind them, thinking, "When you were playing golf, you weren't blocking the road. Lads, you're in my way. You guys are always in my way".

Cycling travels well, too. The 'charity cycle' adds virtue to the exercise. It's hard not to smile when you see them embark on a fundraiser, looking all jolly, but don't be fooled.

Perhaps wrongly, I've always taken a droll view of how men treat women. The groping. The patronising. The breaking of hearts. But when it comes to money, I take a hard line.

Because that's what cycling is really about. Doing business and cutting us out. When I worked in Silicon Valley years ago, I met a venture capitalist who was revered by his colleagues, not for his great deals, but for taking part in the Paris-Roubaix cycling competition. Its terrain is so rough, including a long stretch over cobbles, they have to build bikes capable of withstanding the course. The venture capatalist wasn't religious but reeked of piety, a quality I have long despised. Give me a cigar-smoking old fart with a great belly-laugh any day.

Since then, it's officially become a thing that cycling clubs are the place to do deals in Silicon Valley. Pitches are made and bonds formed on Sunday cycles and long weekends in Lake Tahoe. Of course, that's moved here, like all American crazes.

So, what to do? Obviously those women so inclined will have to get on their bikes and compete. You could offer to make them lunch afterwards so you can get in on the bonding, which has equal parts servility and sneakiness. All I can recommend is vigilance. And don't smile at them benignly. What goes on on the road, doesn't stay on the road.

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