Earlier this year in March, the local lockdown rules had been eased and I was enjoying the warm spring sun, sitting outside with my better half in a nearby park and enjoying some fish and chips. Everyone around us was clearly enjoying the “lighter touch” lockdown and equally making the most of the fresh air and sunshine.
One thing did strike me, which does seem obvious on reflection – the sheer diversity of bicycles people ride. Lycra-clad riders on road bikes, full suspension mountain bikes (which often have never seen anything more offroad than grass or gravel), pragmatic and sensible hybrid bikes with riders ready for anything, shabby second or third hand bikes with bits attached and/or falling off, single speeds with ironically and/or fashionably dressed riders, the list goes on.
I put forward the case that no other means of transport truly reflects the individual personality of its user like the bicycle.
Even the historical liberator of the masses and the symbol of freedom for many a teenager (and adults) – the car – is slowly becoming a white good, much like a fridge or TV. Despite tremendous technological innovation and developments in safety, I argue that cars have now become largely standardised and – dare I say it – boring.
Having said this, I own a car which some may call a luxury car. German build quality, elegant styling, good engine, automatic gearbox, leather seats, comprehensive navigation and infotainment system, bluetooth connection for my mobile phone, the list goes on. On paper it sounds great, but to be frank – whilst it may be representative of my profession (not a cycling blogger) – my personality is more than a mass of gray and chrome, and despite its sporty stance I actually find it quite dull to drive. Pick any street in any major European city, and you will see a mass of black or grey cars and SUVs. Excellent cars in their own right, but simply one of many.
Back to my reverie in the park, each bike tells a story about its rider. Some want practicality, speed, offroad capability, comfort, style. Some may prefer dark, understated or bright colours, some take meticulous care of them, perhaps some have left it to rust in their basement, some may add some whacky attachments (such as big air horns, side mirrors and brightly coloured mudguards), or some strive for minimalism. One man pootled past with a can of beer in his bottle cage. I challenge you to name an equally expressive mode of transport.
Whilst the car has been the symbol of freedom since the 1960s, before this, the bicycle was the symbol of freedom for children. With everyone driving a glorified washing machine (when not stuck in traffic), perhaps we can find some freedom and fun in our beloved bicycles?
I’d like to read your thoughts on this. Perhaps you’ve also come to the same conclusion? Perhaps you have some whacky attachments to your bike? Let me know in the comments below!
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