Ding! Ding!

The re­turn of the Tour of Bri­tain causes Archie Hume of A Hume Coun­try Cloth­ing to re­flect on the im­pact of cy­cling in the coun­try­side

Scottish Field - - Dubarry -

Ihave a mate, let’s call him Stu­art…he’s not called Stu­art, but it’ll do. He’s a farmer. Big unit. Ex-rugby player. Likes to lit­ter the coun­try­side with enor­mous farm ve­hi­cles that trundle slowly from farm to field guz­zling up road space and fling­ing clods of muck ev­ery­where. He drives with a sense of en­ti­tle­ment that a cer­tain el­derly royal can only as­pire to. Th­ese roads are his. His fam­ily have been clog­ging th­ese by­ways for gen­er­a­tions and I’d say, he takes a cer­tain pride in see­ing a trail of BMWs and Nis­san Qashqais in the rearview mir­ror.

For years he was top dog in the hi­er­ar­chy of things that an­noy peo­ple about driv­ing in the coun­try­side. He and his ilk were the butt of ev­ery Top Gear joke Cotswold­dwelling Clark­son cast, in the di­rec­tion of the coun­try driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Un­til out of the dis­tance came the sound of a thou­sand locust wings beat­ing and ar­riv­ing like a new plague in the coun­try­side as in whirred the pelo­ton. Swarms of Ly­cra clad, bike borgs with thighs like Here­fords massed on the roads in un­ex­pected places. Fre­quently at the foot of steep hills and on the other side of tight bends. The break­ing power of ex­ec­u­tive cars was sud­denly be­ing tested as fund man­agers across the land sped back from cities to their coun­try homes right up the back end of a cy­cling club.

The im­pact on the coun­try­side was dra­matic. In one fell swoop red diesel was no longer the lead­ing cause of ru­ral road rage. And how did my trac­tor driv­ing chum Stu­art re­act? He bought a bike.

I’m not claim­ing this change hap­pened overnight or that my farm­ing friend Stu­art bought a bike en­tirely be­cause he en­joys up­set­ting other road-users. He would claim, with some le­git­i­macy (and af­ter the pass­ing of sev­eral years in which he hated cy­clists) that it’s be­cause cy­cling is the per­fect, low im­pact ex­er­cise for a man in his mid­dle years who was (pre-cy­cling) car­ry­ing a gen­er­ous en­dow­ment of con­di­tion and hadn’t trou­bled the world of sport since he was in­jured out of rugby 20 years ago.

And be­sides the health ben­e­fits, cy­cling has opened up a whole new so­cial life for Stu­art. He’s al­ways en­joyed a gib­ber and a pint. Now he just cy­cles for 40 miles with a bunch of folk he’d pre­vi­ously never have met be­fore sup­ping a nice cold, frothy ale.

Lots of his new cy­cling bud­dies are new to the coun­try­side… cy­cling re­ally is the new so­cial glue. Plum­bers, builders, coun­try cloth­ing re­tail­ers – there’s pos­si­bly even a fund man­ager and a few exec car com­muters. You can spot the city boys a mile­off. They’re the ones on the Pinarello car­bon fi­bre bikes.

Pelo­tons of MAMILs free­wheel­ing around shed­ding cash in cafes and pubs across the county whilst sav­ing the NHS a bucket in heart at­tacks that didn’t hap­pen. It’s the ru­ral eco­nomic re­gen­er­a­tion/so­cial co­he­sion stuff of a politi­cian’s dreams.

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