I had an interesting chat with someone on Twitter, recently. They shared a picture of their mug with ‘The Clash’ on – and I commented that they were my all time favourite band. So much so, when the assessor on my first driving test mentioned he’d seen them twice in his teens, I stalled in the middle of a junction (and failed as a result).
After the “I ❤ The Clash” revelation, I added:
“I thought I was a teenage punk, turned out I was a cyclist without a bike.”
Punk and cycling, in my head, actually have a lot of similar pulls. Let me explain:
Firstly – though I like the Sex Pistols, I was a Clash short of punk – eg thoughtful, opinionated, not anarchic (clearly). I’m not claiming I spent my days sitting on a bridge in Camden charging people to take photoes of me, I was more likely to be in my room writing essays about how punk was in fact a contradiction because conforming to a belief in non-conformity was… you get the idea. Basically a bit of a loser with too much time to think.
FEMINISM > When I was 18 I studied A Level English Language, and it changed me. I actually wish I’d done a degree in Language, instead of Literature. We studied gender in one module. How is it right that a man is a Mr (eg adult) from such an early age, yet a woman is a Miss and a Mrs only when joined to a man? We don’t call 25 year old unmarried men “Master Smith”, do we? Did you know “tart” used to be a positive term, but due to the effect thought has on language, it now means slut? And WHY do we have a waitress, air hostess, and no docteress or lawyeress? It goes on. I was one very angry 18 year old because I was beginning to realise I was in the 50% of the human race apparently in the minority.
ANTI CONSUMERISM > Here’s a verse from X-Ray Spex: “My mind is like a plastic bag, That corresponds to all those ads, It sucks up all the rubbish, That is fed in through by ear, I eat Kleenex for breakfast, And use soft hygienic Weetabix, To dry my tears” – On top of Engllish Language, I took Media Studies, Literature, and Psychology – and I was angry at the way our society was so steeped in the need to consume. Like most teenagers, then.
ENERGY, PASSION, EXPRESSION and a little bit of PAIN > Crashing around in a mosh pit after 3 snake bites is just mindless self battering. Especially when you’re a girl – but I loved it. I’ve always had a lot of energy, and it had to go somewhere. I loved the total freedom and acceptance of this ridiculous practice of dancing however the hell you wanted in a small enclosed space, often smashing into anyone that got in your space. Writing lets me exercise all of the above, too – in a less physically, more mentally energetic fashion.
FEMINISM > I will drop that bloke. And if I cannot drop him, I will try my damndest to keep up. If I cannot keep up, I will just keep trying to get stronger. That mentality is there, though I’m not sure it’s good – what of course would be better would be for me to prove myself against my own sex, and have the opportunity to do so just like the men do. The problem is (and this is changing, quickly thanks to Rebecca Slack and SEWTTS) there are less women at races – so my 1st lady of 5 is pathetic compared to my other half’s 7th of 150. Feminism in cycling is difficult, because unlike in the professional world of waitresses vs docteresses, we have to accept that our bodies are not as strong, and we have different hormones coursing through our veins. Cycling is a sport where women have been categorically underrepresented, and I want to stand up for our rights to ride bikes, have bikes and clothing made for us, and races hosted for us.
ANTI CONSUMERISM > Now how AM I going to argue this one? I own 4 bikes (3 in use), multiple pairs of wheels, a piece of data collecting equipment worth near a grand… All that is true – but I don’t need that to cycle. To spend an entire day in the countryside with just my thoughts and dream, I need just a bicycle, a helmet (in my opinion) and some jam sandwhiches. I can get away from TV, radio, advertising, I don’t need to go near the shops on my weekend – I can be free. When it comes to racing, yes, there is a lot of kit – but the essence of time trialling is the race of truth – man, or woman, vs clock. Pay just £8 to prove yourself against the clock, eat a piece of cake, and then go home and feel pleasantly exhausted the rest of the day.
ENERGY, PASSION, EXPRESSION and a little bit of PAIN > Those 4 words go hand in hand with cycling, racing, and everything around it. Just getting out on a bike is a way to use energy, and there is passion in every pedal stroke that fights against a hill, and in the soaring feeling of flying that we all enjoy come the other side. Racing is all about that short period of time that is given over to pain – and that pain is the way to achieve everything you trained so hard to do – it’s an expression of the hours of riding logged over the winter. Cycling is a sport steeped in passion – how else could those GC riders keep their legs spinning, and pounding, day in, day out, just for what is really only a jersey the colour of the sun?
So – there we have it – that is my explanation of why, in my case, I drifted from punk to cycling in such a seamless manner – both cultures answered my needs. So – if you thought I’d grown up a bit, you were very, very wrong – I just found a new hobby.