In which The Reluctant Cyclist considers her bottom.
Now that I may (very loosely) be termed a cyclist, albeit after only one ride, I have found myself noticing bikes and their riders in the same way that a woman trying for a baby suddenly sees pregnant women on every street. I have started comparing bicycles as I pass them by (in the car), whilst considering their shape, type and of course their colour.
As I live in Cambridge there have been a fair few cycles to contemplate, and I can report that most of the women out on the roads here are riding Dutch or ‘sit up and beg’ bikes (hark at me and my correct cycling terminology), and wear helmets and their usual day clothes. Almost every teenager in the city cycles to school, and pastel coloured bikes with covered chains and wicker baskets are de rigueur for females in this age group.
When I travel in London, however, the cyclists appear to be from a different planet. Most are male (so that’s Mars then?) and dressed in what Boris Johnson meant when he recently referred to ‘de-lycrafying’ cycling.
My second jaunt out on the tandem meant I could reconsider the problems of the previous ride and prepare more appropriately for the occasion. I had been woefully underdressed on the first occasion, finding that a leather jacket was less sexy when it was accompanied by a wide band of goose-pimpled flesh on my lower back from where I had been leaning over, and that despite the fact that I was clearly using them to cycle with, my thighs had achieved sub-zero surface temperatures by the end of the ride.
To combat these issues, I turned up for ride number two dressed in the female equivalent of what the Michelin man wears in the tyre adverts. I was not so much rocking the layered look as taking it out for a meal at an all you can eat diner. Sexy, it was not. To top off my multi-layered fleecy ensemble, I was loaned a luminous yellow jacket with the words ‘you can borrow this but it’ll be way too big for you’. Not when one is wearing all the hoodies one owns, it is not. So dressed as an over-sized belisha beacon, I was almost ready for the tandem ride part II.
Almost, but not quite. Warmth covered, it was time to turn my attention to comfort. After the last ride, the two most painful parts of my body had been my shoulders and my arse. An adjustment of the handlebars upwards and the saddle downwards had done a little to alleviate the upper body issues, but for my rear-end a more permanent solution was required.
Having disregarded all advice from my cyclist buddy, I headed to that well known bike retailer, Amazon, and purchased the largest seat they could offer me. Catchily titled ‘The Big Bum Seat’ it really was a Ronseal of a product, doing exactly what it said on the tin. Even I acknowledged that it was a little out of proportion with the frame, but as I appeared to have eaten all the cakes, who was I to complain.
We cycled for six miles to a cute cycling café ‘Look Mum No Hands’, where my bulky luminosity suddenly didn’t look quite so out of place. We parked the tandem alongside several others (what is the collective noun for tandems?), promised to never, ever, dress in matching cyclewear, and went in for a well-earned coffee and cake.
I sat down on the wooden chair and to my surprise, didn’t wince at all. The seat really had cushioned my posterior and the springs had meant that the command ‘bums up’ for roadbumps was pretty much redundant. We cycled five miles back home taking a more direct route and the journey this time was not punctuated by my aches and whines. Landmarks from the previous journey were passed with comments about how I wasn’t feeling bruised, and though I was still some way off admitting to actively enjoying the ride, the increased comfort certainly made it a much less unpleasant experience than the previous outing.
So, comfort assured, I now need to find a way of dressing for warmth that isn’t totally off-putting to the opposite sex. I feel some cycling shopping coming on…