1974 poster by Jerzy Flisak for When the Legends Die via 50Watt
Hello, the stylish people on vintage bicycles, wafting through red lights like pollen on the breeze. I’ve see your red lipstick. Your tweed. Your buttons. Your bicycles with permed eyelashes. Your messenger bags with nipple tassels. Your mudguards made of leaping dolphins. Your voluminous raincoats with hydroponic gardens rustling beneath. Your front baskets containing sausage dogs eating sausages from baskets. Your silver bells dressed up in little moon-men costumes. Your brogues made of rare African moths. Your helmets made of croissants. Your tattoos drawn by tamed swans. Your punctures fixed in the night by Minpins wielding needle and thread, your chain oiled by the saliva of visiting dream bees.
I respect the basic right to look great on a bike. I guess I’m envious, and maybe slightly bitter. To me it’s a fantasy to look effortlessly fabulous, to live in a world where I could get off my bike and not look crazed, and not have a solid waterfall of sweat for a back and a fountain for a head. I know, I know – there are plenty of others like me. I’ve seen them. People living the hi-vis dream, or riding along puffing on cigarettes with their pants slowly sliding down.
It’s not important. It’s not important. And yet.
Yesterday I was in a really snug lift with four smartly suited businesspeople in Holborn, near Fleet Street. I had a broken necklace in my pocket that I was taking to get fixed at a jewellery repairer in a hard-to-find location. I was carrying my helmet and over-stuffed pannier and was wearing padded-bum shorts. I looked down. The shoes surrounding my sneakers were beautiful well-buffed leather. The woman had diamante things on hers. Her perfume was subtle but insistent. The businesspeople stood gloriously upright. Fully evolved. Their silence was luxurious. Everything about them was so sleek and contained – they were like large expensive suitcases, and I was a bung trolley with stuff falling out everywhere.
I sometimes feel that cycling, and all the stuff that goes with it, has exaggerated my feelings of discomfort around others. Maybe it’s a combination of cycling and being in London, where there are high concentrations of stylish and/or wealthy people around. Obviously, though, London doesn’t care. You are probably the LAST person that London cares about. Stop being a dick, you dick, and just ride your bike and be glad. Is what I tell myself.