I was writing a piece on cycling – ‘obsession, passion and enjoyment’. (This will be published soon), when I came across ‘Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder‘ by Dave Barter. I initially bought the book for 99p in e-book form, but could never be bothered to download it to iPhone so I ended up buying hardcopy for £6.99.
It’s an eclectic mixture of articles by an averagely good club cyclist, willing to dabble in a range of different cycling disciplines.
It’s not the usual cycling book of base miles, intervals and sensible nutritional practices. It is a humorous look at the motivations, passions and experiences of an averagely good, but very keen cyclist.
My first impressions of reading the book where – well, it’s pretty good, but he doesn’t even sound like a proper cyclist – I mean riding a mountain bike over some mud track and a couple of semi race, cycle sportives hardly makes you a real cyclist. So much for real cycling obsession! But, this thought was quickly checked with the realisation that this was stemming from my own obsessive tendency to pigeonhole cyclists into different disciplines (and subconsciously devaluing achievements of those outside our own discipline).
By the end of the book, I realised that:
a) Dave Barter has a pretty impressive cycling palmeres, (Three peaks cycle cross race, European Sportives as difficult as a stage in the Tour de France, the hilly 113 Fred Whitton Challenge, Lands End – John o Groats, the Dunwich dynamo challenge (an archaic 113 mile ride from London in middle of night, and last but not least Swindon R.C. hill climb champion – 1st out of 13 riders). Personally, I would have made more about being a hill climb champion, but that’s just me.
b) Inspired by this eclectic potpourri of cycle rides and stories, maybe it would be good for me to stretch my horizons beyond fast dual carriageways. I’m seriously hooked by the idea of the Fred Whitton challenge – A 113 mile ride to cover all the major passes of the Lake District in a day. I’m already obsessively pouring over maps in the Lake District and plotting how I can take the course record (I doubt there is even a course record, but I’ll break it anyway.)
There are few aspects of cycling that haven’t peaked the authors interest. When I read the article on Dave’s participation in the Cyclo Cross Three peaks challenge on a single speed bike, I made a mental note to pay less attention to the average speed at the end of rides. I could feel the real achievement of trying a discipline you had little experience with and doing well, despite lack of proper preparation.
I think every cyclist will relate to some parts of this book. – Being mortified one Christmas holiday at Looking at your pot belly and going out for a few hours in horrendous weather conditions to ride off the excess calories off a few Christmas pies, is not something I can say has happened exactly, but still that obsessive ticking off training plans and mileage totals, is something we’ve all done at different stages.
The irony of the book is that although celebrating obsessive cycling behaviour, it also inspires a wider and more wide-ranging enjoyment of cycling. For me it is a reminder of the joys and challenges cycling can give – and there’s more to cycling than getting a 30mph average speed.
I was actually quite moved by the article on the Dunwich Dynamo – It is a 112 mile ride from the centre of London to the coast; starting just before sunset and finishing just before sunrise. There is no real organisation, no feed stops, no timing chips, just an eclectic mix of cyclists who meet at a pub in London and pedal off to a cafe by the sea through the night. And all for no other reason than why not? – It is a celebration of the essential enjoyment of cycling.
Riding for fun. Something those of us with an obsessive streak need a reminder from time to time.
Each article has an introduction, which is as much fun as the main article. It’s like the article is written for a magazine, but the introduction is a quick spontaneous collection of thoughts. It is a good combination. My mother might say, he writes nearly as well as me. I would say it is an excellent book, which had me smiling either at myself or at the experiences of Dave. As he says in his introduction:
“If you are curious to the psyche of a mediocre British cyclist driven by a strange obsession then have a dip in and see if there is something that you can identify with.”
If you want an article ‘Top 10 tips for riding a cyclo-sportive’ this is not the book. But, if you want an article – ‘what actually happens when you ride a cyclo-sportive’ this book will definitely appeal.
Just a thought on e-books – 99p is too cheap. It should cost more.
- Obsessive Compulsive Cycling Disorder – by Dave Barter at Amazon.co.uk
Symptoms of obsessive Cycling
These are some of the crazy things we cyclists can do:
Drill holes in equipment. Apparently, it is used to be all the rage to drill holes in equipment like brakes and even cranks. The theory was that drilling a hole would save weight and thus improve performance. 50 grams of weight barely make any difference to how fast you go. Maybe on a mountainous stage it is of importance, but for flatish races it is completely insignificant. You could also argue that holes disrupt the airflow and reduce aerodynamic performance.
Hours Looking at Equipment. Cyclists can easily spend hours pouring over Bike Catalogues weighing up the pros and cons of different groupsets.
3 Chain Ring Bolts instead of 5. This is an example of obsessive behaviour. In an effort to save weight, I know of cyclists who have taken out 1- 2 chain ring bolts to ride with 3 (done up very tightly) rather than the standard 5. If you weigh up the risks of the chainring becoming loose and the completely insignificant weight saving, it seems to lack reason.
Glueing on a race number. Race numbers come with safety pins. Most people are happy to pin them on. But, I know of time trialists who have spent hours glueing the number to the skin suit; this is to make the skin suit more aerodynamic, reducing airflow (and presumably saving weight). It’s not just the hours to glue it on, but, the hours to take it off.
Constant Tinkering with the Bike. Eddy Merckx was said to be a fanatic about his bike. He wanted to always be checking and rechecking it; sometimes even in the middle of the night. Some riders will barely clean the bike, others can become fanatic about making minor adjustments.
Going Training on Christmas Day (when it’s raining and -2 degrees)