Robert Elms: My life in the saddle

A A A

I've been riding bikes for well over 20 years (which is not the same as riding bikes well), but I don't recall ever becoming a cyclist. Despite getting on a battered hybrid most days to make the short but hairy inner-city journey from home to work, I don't recognise myself in most of the clichés of the earnest, yoghurt-hugging, two-wheeled eco-warrior. And now that I also pull on extremely hip Rapha gear and display the family jewels in lycra, while training to do stages of the Tour de France on my sleek Roberts racer, I'm even more aware that there is not one homogenous - and apparently to many, hateful beast - "the cyclist". The maiden aunt on her sit-up-and-beg is not the same as the boys doing wheelies on their BMXs, or the honed athletes whizzing past me as I wheeze through Regent's Park every morning.

Quite why those of us who sometimes rely on pedal power should all be lumped together and so rigidly defined and regularly derided because of our chosen form of transport is a complete mystery to me. I'm sick of people going on about cyclists, as if the very word is a shorthand, which will tell you everything about us. It's not like becoming a vegan or a Scientologist, it's not a cult. I no more define myself by the fact that I cycle than my wife does by the fact that she has an Oyster card. For me this has always been a sensible and sometimes enjoyable way of getting from A to B, except when it's wet.

For all but a tiny militant tendency, cycling is not a moral crusade and most of us are not pedalling proselytisers. When I tuck my right trouser-leg into my sock it is not a secret sign that I've joined a brotherhood of the pure and superior. I certainly don't subscribe to the two wheels good, four wheels bad mantra because, along with about 80 per cent of all adult cyclists, I'm also a car driver. As well as putting paid to that silly argument about cyclists not paying road tax, that fact should surely show that we are not a breed apart, a maniacal clan ignorant of other road users. Almost all cyclists also drive sometimes, but most car drivers never cycle, so they don't understand what it's like out there on two wheels. If they did perhaps they'd stop moaning so much.

I certainly shout long and hard at car drivers who turn left without indicating or stray into those cycle-only sections at lights, because I know that is life and death stuff, not just a few precious seconds on your journey. But I'm pretty tolerant, if slightly jealous, when I'm sitting in my car and I see a cyclist sailing nonchalantly through red lights. I'm also honest enough to admit that I do it too sometimes, when I'm on two wheels. It doesn't take too long riding round any of our major cities to understand that it's often a wise move to get away from those lights before the man in the juggernaut runs you over without even noticing. But I also know that the real reason cyclists sometimes take liberties is the same one as dogs and their gonads. It's because we can.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones