real life cycling

A Lottery Winners Guide to Cycling

Despite the fact that I probably only buy 2 or 3 lottery tickets a year, I have cultivated, presumably like most other people, a nice little lottery win fantasy. Being a rational type I have no expectation of ever winning the thing, but this got me thinking about what other people’s lottery win dream might look like; I imagine we’re usually talking big houses, long holidays, fancy clothes and fast cars. Then there will be those who have a well developed altruistic streak (or a need to be loved) who would set up a charity or a foundation, or simply donate large lumps of their new found cash to the needy. This is all well and good and very normal. Then I went back to my own fantasy to compare notes and I realised there was a theme to my dream.

In the peripheral vision of my mind’s eye is all of the above; the cars, the houses and the charity work, but the really big decisions that would have to be made, the life changers, are all bike related (anyone who read my previous post, where I admitted to being a cycling obsessive, will see where i’m going with this).

The first and most obvious decision would be, what bike do you buy when money is no object? Already you’re entering a minefield. A few weeks ago my local bike shop had a rather lovely matt black and red Wilier Athena in their window, and as I walked past this shop every morning on my way to work my affection for the bike had time to blossom; the saliva marks on the window told me I wasn’t alone in this. I began to believe that this was something close to my dream bike.

Wilier Athena
Wilier Athena

But if money was suddenly no object, it’s tempting to stop fantasising over a £3,000 bike and start thinking about what £7,000, or £10,000 bikes are out there. And this is where it gets tricky.

You see, i’m no mug on the bike but neither am I a racing snake, and if you suddenly start riding your local roads on a £10,000 bike you’ll be noticed – and you’d better be just about the quickest thing around, or face the wrath and derision of your peers. No one wants to resemble one of those overweight executive types who’ve taken up the sport and graduated immediately to a Brad Wiggins replica Pinarello without serving an apprenticeship. I’ve got nothing against overweight people, or executives for that matter – the more people out cycling the better – but if you’re going to look flash you’ve got to back it up; even a lottery winner shouldn’t be riding a bike built for someone three times quicker than them.

But then something else occurred to me: once you take away the fantasy element of a £10,000 carbon bike, and you can pluck any one of them from the shelves on a whim, hasn’t the allure been lost? Are these bikes really the pinnacle of biking craftsmanship that they previously seemed? It would be nice to find out, but…probably not.

And so I’ve concluded that Robert Penn was onto something when he documented his quest to have his dream bike hand-crafted from scratch (in his TV documentary and book ‘It’s all about the bike’). If you want the ultimate bike, and you want to embrace the pinnacle of craftsmanship then the answer is surely to have a frame built to your measurements, from the material of your choice, by a master craftsman. From this, you hand pick each piece of the jigsaw – headset, group-set, bars, seat – based on whatever criteria you like; price, performance, beauty, whatever. Then you have the whole thing assembled by a mechanic who lives and breathes this stuff as his life’s work.

Robert Penn - It's all about the bike (Photo: Dick David - Flickr)
Robert Penn – It’s all about the bike
(Photo: Dick David – Flickr)

You would end up riding not just another mass produced high-tech bike from a Korean production line, but your bike, built from the parts you chose, and designed to fit you like a comfortable glove. That would be the thing for a lottery winner to ride.

The other solution to the £10,000 bike problem is to just buy the £10,000 bike too (you are a lottery winner after all) and turn yourself into a lean and lightweight bona fide racing snake…which leads me to part two of my lottery fantasy. When I think about all that free time that my new found lottery wealth would bring me, of course I think about spending time with my family, helping other people, and holidaying – but only in a general sort of way. What I really think about is all that time I could spend cycling. During the winter, instead of pulling out all the stops attempting to clock up some respectable training miles whilst maintaining a job and family life, as a lottery winner I could conservatively clock up 250 miles a week without even trying too hard. I could pepper this regime with regular sun kissed training camps in Mallorca or the Canaries…which sounds like bliss…except that…

…supposing after all this – the obscenely quick and lightweight bike, the huge mileage and regular top ups of sunshine and vitamin D – what happens if I’m still not very quick? There’s nowhere to go from there. As comedian Dylan Moran explains potential, “don’t go anywhere near it…just leave potential well alone…at the moment it’s perfect, you’ll only mess it up!”

I suspect most people who buy a lottery ticket understand the gargantuan odds against ever winning the big prize, and have no real expectation of this happening; but at least if you buy the ticket you can have the dream. But for the average cycling obsessive that lottery win would create all kinds of labyrinthine problems (although, as problems go, admittedly very nice ones). For most of us the decisions we make are linked to the limitations of our bank balance, but take that away and suddenly we have to make real decisions based on ‘what’s the best thing to do?’, and ‘what do I really want?’, and ‘do I dare go anywhere near my untapped potential?’

Are we equipped to do this? Can we even be trusted? I once though the matt black and red Wilier Athena would make me happy…I was convinced of it…and now I’m not so sure.

There’s only one thing for it…to win the thing and carry out a proper case study on all of this. Now…birthdays and memorable dates…? Or five lucky dips?

8 comments on “A Lottery Winners Guide to Cycling

  1. I’m anti-lottery. I hear it’s 2 quid a week nowadays, so, how about this. If I offered you a set of 700 quid wheels at the end of the year, you’d feel like you’d have won the lottery. So save your money and upgrade them wheels, or some other bike kit! You’ll lose the dream but ride a better bike.

    PS: loved the line about saliva on the window! Very good.


  2. a three grand bike would be wasted on me. my lottery win would go not on a new bike but on a support car to follow me around to fix punctures, carry some hot coffee and give me a lift up hills.


    • You’ve given this some thought by the sounds of it…i like your thinking. How about going the whole hog – maybe a post ride massage too. I don’t think there are too many folks around here with their own soigneur on standby.


  3. A support car would be tremendous, though if you’ve got someone driving behind you, you’d look pretty ridiculous on a $500 bike. Probably best to go with both.

    I do like the sound of getting a completely custom built bike, much better than something that will be considered “Last year’s model” in under 12 months. You’d be much less inclined to upgrade frequently, and actually enjoy the bike that you’re riding.

    I may not have my own soigneur or or support car, but when I run out of water when I’m on my trainer in the basement, I can usually get my son’s attention, and he’ll fill up my bottle for me, all while I’m doing more intervals. So that’s pretty close!


    • Sounds like your son is doing a great job, although i myself might be tempted to get the water myself (any excuse to get a break from interval training!) There are some very well known frame builders here in the UK for whom building bikes from scratch is their life’s work – apparently they will measure you, then take you out for a ride to cast an expert eye over your riding style before creating your bike. Sounds like something to look forward to in retirement i reckon…i’m going to start saving up!


  4. Pingback: How to buy a bike (part 2) | ragtime cyclist

  5. Pingback: How to master the work-life-bike balance | ragtime cyclist

  6. Pingback: The boy with the flame legged trousers | ragtime cyclist

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