There is a breed of cyclist who, it seems, is doing quite well for himself.
He doesn’t go in for obvious and ostentatious displays of his wealth (apart from his cycling kit, which is pristine and expensive), he doesn’t look down on his cycling companions or insist on treating everyone to a round of coffee and cake at the cafe stop (mores’ the pity), and it’s never quite clear exactly what he does for a living – but he obviously earns well.
This is apparent in the way he carries himself and the air of calm luxury he exudes. It’s also apparent in the fact that you could easily mistake his garage for a bike shop.
There are racks of bikes hanging from the ceiling and walls, rows of tools and spare wheels, old seat posts, group-sets which never got fitted, bags of kit and clothing; basically, the contents of a reasonably well appointed bike shop.
He’s got summer road bikes, winter road bikes, a vintage steel framed road bike, a titanium road bike bought on a whim, hard-tail mountain bikes, full suspension mountain bikes, a cyclo-cross bike, a mountain bike that’s been converted into a road bike, a fixed gear trainer, a bike to attach to the indoor turbo trainer…
Occasionally he talks about rationalising his bike collection, which is an admission that he acquires bikes irrationally, but there’s little evidence of this ever happening.
Instead, the collection simply grows.
Over time you begin to read the signs and you can tell when he’s started a process which will only end one way; the acquisition of yet another bike.
He’ll have one particular bike, the favourite from his stable and the one that he rides when he knows it will be a quick day. After pulling this steed out on every sunny day for a couple of years, and talking it up as the ultimate bike and the perfect fit between man and machine he suddenly, out of the blue, begins to find fault with it.
This is a ruse, as even the one-man-bike-shop with his well developed shopping habit and mysterious wealth seems to need a reason (however manufactured) to make a new purchase.
Mid-ride, he will drop little gripes and moans into the general chitter-chatter, saying things like “y’know, I do love this bike but the frame has always been a touch large for me, I feel like i’m wrestling with it a bit on the climbs”, or “it’s a bugger to work on, nothing’s standard size so you have to buy a new tool just for a simple job like removing the bottom bracket.”
We all exchange glances and roll our eyes at these pre-prepared complaints, already a bit jealous of whatever state-of-the-art carbon dream machine he’s got his eye on next.
Don’t forget, he’s complaining about high end, expensive bikes, so when he talks about his bike being no good in some way, it’s all relative.
But the thought process has begun and he’s now leaving his little audit trail of reasons to splash out once again. Once he’s started the process of rubbishing a £3,000 bike it will only end one way. A £4,000 bike.
And good luck to him.
Any bitterness I betray by writing this is pure jealousy.