Even East End funny man Mickey Flanagan is at it. Who would’ve thought this cockney, boy-done-good, happy-go-lucky, stand up comedian for the working class man (while mocking the middle class) would spatula himself into lycra (sorry but it ain’t a good look, Mick) and jump on top of a contraption that offers no protection to the elements and dangerously sharp vehicles.
I am, of course, referring to cycling. If you live anywhere in the United Kingdom, you will surely have noticed the rise in popularity of what used to be the preserve of the young boy who would invariably head home after an adventure with his mates with cuts on his knees and a lump on his head (no helmets back then you see). But now you see thousands of cyclists of all sexes, ages, colours and creeds speeding through the streets of cities to get to work – wearing an outfit that only 100 years ago would have broken so many cultural and legal taboos, wearing it would have seen you taken away by the Peelers to spend some time at Her Majesty’s pleasure.
It’s not just in the urban areas though; countryside school runs now see Mum or Dad hopping off their ‘racer’ and not out of their Rover as little Johnny follows – invariably wet and cold – up to the school gate. Then there are the ‘professionals’ who take up the country lanes and golf courses because they, in particular, offer great off-road cycling terrain. To make matters worse, they end their day in the local pub with a well-deserved pint – still wearing their lycra and clip-on shoes all the time sitting spread legged putting the locals off their meat and two veg dinner.
They’re everywhere and for years I didn’t like it. I didn’t like their smugness; I didn’t like their sweatiness; I didn’t like their fitness levels; I didn’t like seeing parts of them in the pub and – perhaps most frustratingly – I didn’t like the amount of money they were saving by not paying for public transport. I would console myself in the knowledge they got wet, cold, dirty and would probably – at some stage – have their beloved bike nicked and have to get a new one. Plus they were perpetually in danger. And relax – the train, bus, tube wasn’t so bad after all.
But a bloke’s allowed to change his mind and – with a touch of the ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em and mid-life crisis kicking in – I think I’m going to give it a go.
So, I need a bike. Now when I was a kid, a trip to Halfords in Haywards Heath to view the bikes was a bit like Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the local Magician all knocking on your front door and asking if they could come in for a cup of tea and natter. I loved it. The smell of the place, the different tyres, the different shapes and sizes all made it like a sweet factory – well, not quite.
And good old Halfords – a much loved brand for me – is still selling bikes to this very day. But now they sell the bikes online and with some great discounts all year round. So what better place to start my Flanagan-esque odyssey than with a trip to the Halfords website (not before I used a Halfords voucher code from Savoo, but I has to say that) to search out the perfect bike for me? Halfords got me the right bike at the right price and the online experience and delivery was great.
It is a money-saver too. A weekly zones 1-2 travel card in London is a little over £30 and the bike I purchased was around £200. Even I can work out that it will only take a round six weeks cycling and I will have made my money back. And a year of cycling means you could easily save yourself over £1.5k – which is a lot of money!
I’ll be honest and say I haven’t yet braved the early-morning commute to work, but I have been out at the weekends and I can see the appeal. You feel pretty alive, you feel challenged, it’s good for you and you feel like you’ve earned the drink in the pub. I haven’t got any lycra (I did get a helmet as I’m not a complete idiot) because I can’t face it, but I reckon it’s only a matter of time before I find myself strolling into the office clad in black with the bike under my arm and a fistful of pounds in my pocket
I just hope I won’t look like Mickey…