It’s Friday night and I’m looking forward to my dirty weekend ahead. In fact it’s going to be filthy. Lots of panting, sweating. Even a little groaning. Plenty of tight revealing clothing (kinky!). Pushing it harder, for longer…
…it’s Friday night, and of course, I’m at home cleaning my bike.
Cycling is not a sexy sport. Perhaps occasionally it is, during a picturesque sun-drenched stage of the Tour de France, the camera dwelling on riders pouring water suggestively over their gasping faces… the hot steaming tarmac, tanned skin and toned thighs bulging beneath lycra, a flicker of the erotic, a flutter of the housewife’s heart… But on the whole, and especially in the winter off-season, cycling is mostly unglamorous drudgery undertaken beneath grey skies and on grimy roads.
As a racing cyclist the outside world views you with, at best, indifference, at worst suspicion. Lust doesn’t even come into it. As the weekend rolls around and the normal world embarks upon its escape from the working week - drinking, pubs, clubs, bars, dancing, flirting, falling over – us lot are packing in the carbs and heading to bed with a warm milky drink. The pursuits of hedonism and of peak athletic condition mix about as well as a heavily laced house party sangria – it’s fun at first, but before you know it you’re cowering under your duvet praying that Monday morning never arrives.
As a young single male, forgoing such social activities precludes most opportunities for finding a suitable (or even unsuitable, I’m not fussy) female companion to befriend and copulate with and to do all the stuff that normal couples would do. Which probably doesn’t include riding bikes, or at least any kind of cycling that isn’t on dorky rental bikes through Center Parcs in matching cagoules (when any female refers to cycling as ’biking’ it is this vision of holiday catalogue activities to which they are referring).
Cycling and sex are very much strangers, or at least acquaintances who only grudgingly accept the existence of the other. And so it is with some fervor that the cycling world leaps upon its few pin-ups; whether it’s Victoria Pendleton proving that you can combine domination of women’s track sprinting with posing for FHM (above), or cycling’s original (and only?) Italian stallion Mario Cippolini passing off looks – such as this, this, and even this – that the rest of the peloton couldn’t possibly attempt.
But for the rest of us mere mortals, climbing into our bib shorts is like shedding all vestiges of sex appeal we might have previously enjoyed. Like most men, my normal approach to attracting members of the opposite sex is concealment: hide my boring personality, my lack of humour, covering up my unappealing physical shortcomings. After that it’s just a case of damage limitation when the various unpleasant truths are gradually revealed.
But when on the bike all is laid bare (well, ok certain areas are still left to the imagination, but you’d hardly need to be Picasso to be able to sketch what lies beneath); the pitiful skinniness, the dulled mind obsessed with training miles or power wattages or the tactics of an inconsequential crit race that happened six months ago… the devotion to the bike signals a mind and body directed not towards pursuits of romance, but of amateur athletic mediocrity. Potential suitors would not be impressed.
Perhaps the only solution to all this is to pair up with a fellow cyclist, to embark on a relationship galvanised through hill repeats and puncture repairs, and candlelit dinners discussing the relative merits of tubs over clinchers… And when I think of this, and the prospect of having to endure an even greater cycling bore than myself, my status as a cycling singleton doesn’t seem quite so bad after all.