I’ve got a problem.
It doesn’t require a screwdriver, or any tools for that matter, as it can’t be fixed… it’s not that sort of problem. Though I am certainly experienced at creating that sort of problem. Seven years ago I flirted with catastrophe (and possibly death) when I drilled through my house’s mains gas feed while trying to put a picture up in my office. As my face was pummelled with the rush of natural gas, I quickly recognised there was no screwdriver, duck tape or other of my usual bodges for resolving that problem. That actually needed skilled and qualified experts who knew what they were doing, with the many tools required to remove a piece of wall and repair the damage, while I would need to go and buy a pipe spotter before I drilled another hole anywhere in the pristine magnolia walls of my brand new house that I had so nearly scattered across the fields of Lincolnshire.
Aside from my ‘love’ of adrenalin filled DIY, my real passion is for cycling. And no, that is not THE problem, though I appreciate that many see that as a problem in itself (to some extent, myself included). Certainly many drivers think all cyclists are a problem, and many cyclists think some drivers are a problem. Both populations, really do need to refresh themselves on the Highway Code. There is sound advice in there for both groups, that will hopefully keep us all safe while we share our slightly shabby infrastructure, which doubles as a playground. The irony is, most cyclists also drive… does that make them the perfect highway user, or just create some type of schizophrenia depending on which form of transport they’re using at the time?
I think I’m a considerate cyclist… I observe the rules of the road diligently. To many other cyclists surprise, other than when in gridlock, I am quite happy to queue with the cars, and not filter. I just don’t see the point in antagonising anyone, and it gives me a chance to look around, have a drink, clean my glasses or fiddle with my lights. I also use lights even on a mid-summer day and wear bright clothing all the time. My reasons are simple… if someone is going to take me out with their two tons of steel and engineered plastic, I am not going to give them any excuse that I was behaving like a buffoon and / or they didn’t see me. While I think this is a sensible strategy, there is an unfortunate consequence. Every time I head out, I look like a cross between a Christmas decoration and Ronald McDonald. But if I come back safe and sound after each ride, why do I care what I look like on the bike? Since I can’t look at myself, surely it’s everyone else’s problem, not mine. And if that means they saw me, job done!
One aspect of cycling that has troubled me is clothing, and how men mostly feel compelled to wear all black, including some of the chaps I ride with. I understand black shorts (as yes, your bum looks smaller – and white shorts are notably a disaster when it rains)… but to chose the least visible kit you can find has never made sense to me. My view may be changing slightly, as other than tarmac itself (which you should not be laying on unless something has gone spectacularly wrong), during daylight there is very little black out on the road to actually contrast with and it may be as good of a colour to wear as any. However, I just can’t bring myself to wear black as I’m convinced that a psychedelic approach must give you a better chance of staying alive. That said, a couple of years ago, the fashionable alternative to black kit was camouflage. One of my friends has a magnificent matching ‘Camo’ top and shorts, that does look fab. But it’s not for me, as despite what motorists may think, I am not going to war on my bike, and frankly the last thing I want to do is blend in to the surrounding foliage!
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like to take too many risks when it comes to the weather, but I am a relatively rare beast as I am a year round cyclist. While I do have my smart trainer, other than in the worst conditions, I would rather be out on the road. I don’t use mudguards to keep myself and the bike clean… I employ a solitary piece of plastic to keep my behind dry, cutely called an ‘Ass-Saver’, and I also find cleaning my bike quite therapeutic. And, as Billy Connolly will tell you, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes’! And he’s right… but the right clothes tend to be bloody expensive. So choosing the right clobber will take many many hours of painstaking research before I’ll actually buy it (which is half the fun!).
And so to my problem – I will do all of that, and spend £140 on a pair of cycling shorts that I wear for a couple of hours a couple of times per week, but out of principle I won’t spend more than £40 on a pair of jeans that I wear all day, almost every day… and even then I won’t do it until my latest pair are so worn out that you can see the colour of my under-crackers through the material. I really dislike spending money on clothes (all clothes, not just denim) not least as my weight goes up and down like a peanut in a glass of fizz. But moreover, and MY PROBLEM IS – I believe that in general clothes are an utter rip off. What the hell am I paying for? The price of a pair of Levi’s is, on its own, enough to make a Porsche 911 look exceptionally good value.
(you just rolled your eyes, exhaled deeply and stated ‘You’re talking absolute rubbish! How can you compare Levi’s and Porsches? Idiot!’)
Well bear with me… Levi 501’s are, at my last check, about £70-80 per pair. And a Porsche 911 starts at £80,000. Is there more than 1,000 times the value (think technology, material, engineering and worth) in a 911 compared to a pair of Levi’s? Absolutely. And would a 911 be more benefit than 1,000 pairs of Levi’s. Again, of course. Your wardrobe for 1,000 pairs of Levi’s would be huge, possibly requiring you to move out of your current abode into an industrial unit to store them all. And ok, you don’t have £80,000 to spend on a Porsche or Levi’s… nor do I. So replace the 911 with a Dacia Sandero (the cheapest road car you can buy), a piano, or a lawnmower – the same applies – it becomes blatantly obvious that clothes are not good value for money. I never pay full price for clothes, ever, be they for the purpose of work, popping to the pub or even cycling.
If you pay full price for clothes, please stop! Given that ‘Sales’ come around quicker than payslips, there is really no need. Plus, with what you save, you can start saving up for that Piano, Lawnmower or Porsche that you’ve always wanted…