Any socialising took place around a sticky table in a cheap bar. This was where debates were had, jokes were told, and people were ridiculed in a cruel, funny, yet surprisingly healthy way.
If I’m ever asked what I got up to in my twenties this is what I remember.
Followed by a mild paranoia at why I’m being asked what I got up to in my twenties.
Am I being fitted up for a crime? Am I being chased for an unpaid tab in a Manchester bar?
Then, as I entered my thirties, I found cycling.
It was either that or God, and I’m not really a God kind of guy.
So I decided to worship at the altar of Italian branded bike components. I then spent a couple of years riding up lots of hills, until I was competent enough to ride alongside other cyclists without gasping for breath.
I was ready to leave the sticky pub behind and embrace the oddly sociable world of road cycling.
“And I’ll save money too,” I thought, reckoning that a fiver in the mid-ride café is a bargain in comparison to a night in the pub. Forgetting that, financially, cycling draws you into a long game, and a lifelong arm wrestle with your bank account.
But the money is a side issue.
I clock up more quality socialising as a cyclist than I ever did as a fiery twenty-something setting the world to rights in the pub.
I’m also much less likely to quote Noam Chomsky, and am more realistic about my ability to infiltrate mainstream politics and bring it down from the inside with nothing more than a highly developed sense of fairness.
I had a friend join in a group ride on one occasion recently, new to the world of cycling, who was amazed and delighted at what he found.
“I thought you’d be a bunch of competitive idiots, but this is…lovely,” he said, touchingly. “It’s really sociable, this riding along chatting to each other.”
Which it is.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that many of us are also, in fact, idiots, and liable to lapse into displays of ridiculous competition at any given moment.
He must have caught us on a good day.