Yes, George W. (or ‘The Shrub’ as his detractors have been known to deride him) rides a mountain bike – regularly and enthusiastically, we are told: round his ranch, and round Camp David, et c. He’s out here recently for APEC, and riding with 6 equally cycley-minded secret service agents around Ku-Ring-Gai Chase NP, apparently.
What are we to make of this? It seems just a personal and private thing that makes it into the headlines occasionally: a small oddity, in the fattest nation in the world with the largest and most profligate use of (non-renewable) resources, fighting wars on four continents to keep it that way, and keeping us firmly in their embrace down here, whether we like it or not. Certain of the Bush family associates are not too far away from involvement in this, we are led to believe.
So is that what a bike is, just a hobby for the leisured and wealthy, a diversion, an accoutrement, a lifestyle enhancer for the executive who needs a breath of fresh air?
Well, BAC doesn’t see it that way. Bikes, after aristocratic Draisienne dabbling, developed from the mid-1800s as first a middle-class, then an everyperson’s transport (‘appropriate technology’, as E.F.Schumacher would have it), and despite the drift of certain segments of the above back into the activity – “middle-aged men playing dress-ups” as one acute observer phrased his description of Cafe Racer’s Saturday morning clientele – the cosmetically deficient and competent but sometimes underspecified machines that most of us get around on are not what Dubya nor the aforesaid monetarily endowed but physically underequipped six-figure earners use as their two-wheeled transport.
That is why I abhor the epithet “Cycling is the New Golf”. Golf, blown out of all proportion by the creepy networking of compulsive dealmakers, gladhandlers and carpetbaggers, as a means of social stratification and organisation, is now apparently the model for cycling groups that it is ‘desirable’ to belong to. Quite frankly, the said dress-up players can get stuffed. Where were they when racing and general cycling was in the doldrums during the mid-20th century rise of the avaricious automobile lobby? Where are they now that cycle commuting is becoming a necessity to stop our cities turning into pestilential sinks of filth? Yup, down on Beach Rd., stretching jersey lycra to the limits of its designed load, and not around the biceps or pecs. I don’t subscribe to the “enemies’ enemy being my friend” school of thought either. Building or preserving a fake cycling Versailles so that the Court of the modern-day Sun King can enjoy stately progress along its chosen route doesn’t help the peasants grubbing in the muck for a two-wheeled pittance along less-well-favoured car-choked rights of way (yes, that’s right, ‘Rights of Way’ – for Everyone). But, you know what happens when the ordinary folk get oppressed beyond reason for the aristocracy to extract their baubles and whims . . . eat cake? what about Mama Horner’s 9000 kilojoule per slice Housebrick Boiled All-Fruit Cake? Doused in brandy, lit, and thrown through your BMW X 5’s windscreen? Marchons, Marchons, Qu’un sang impur, Abreuve nos sillons!
Yes, I’m being hyperbolic and a bit silly. But when the average Neil Mitchell-listening, Collingwood-Football-Club-supporting citoyen starts treating bikes less as a whimsical diversion of the time (and money)-rich, or alternatively deriding them as an inconvenient and declasse necessity of the monetarily poor, then les enfants de la patrie will be living in a much better societe than they are aujourd’hui.
It may be starting to happen. I’m detecting a very faint pulse.