We’ve all gone bike crazy in Wiltshire, let me tell you.
The Tour of Britain passed through last week. To mark the route that the race took through the county, Wiltshire Council have tied lots of gold-painted bikes to lamp posts. I examined a few of the bikes, and concluded that they’d been pulled out of the bins at council dumps and recycled. They were mostly shopper bikes. Ironically, the ones I looked at were in better shape than a folding bike I’ve been repairing for a fellow boater. I considered nicking one of the gold jobs after the race had gone through, but decided it would be too much faff, and the gold paint would be a right bugger to get off the gears and chain and everything. So I bought new gear and brake cables, brake blocks, and Sturmey Archer gear toggle and trigger, from an Ebay shop, and the bill came to more than £30. Ouch.
On the day the race went through Bristol, I’d popped up there on some errands, but managed to avoid the road closures. I did notice, though, both on the streets of Bristol and all along the roads back to Devizes, that there were lots of MAMILs out and about, accoutred head to toe in expensive lycra clothes, with the obligatory wrap-round sunglasses, and mounted on road bikes which cost more than my car. And often displaying a complete lack of road sense- manoeuvring without rear observations and half-hearted signalling- not to mention their plodding along at a speed that seemed entirely out of keeping with the rig. It dawned on me that these were the older versions of little boys in Spiderman costumes, dashing around being superheroes before going home to tea.
When the race came through Devizes, we found a good vantage point at the roundabout next to the Wadworths brewery. I stood on a wheely bin to get a better view. Police outriders on motorbikes came by, and directed traffic off the main road. Then more outriders, then cars, then even more outriders. Then even more outriders. I never knew there were so many police motorcyclists. Then a bunch of cars with lots of bicycles on their roofs. Then more outriders.
Then a knot of cyclists. Whizz they went, and lots of the spectators blew whistles as they passed. I never knew this was a thing, otherwise I'd have brought a whistle. If I'd had a whistle. I wondered if Bradley Wiggins was in there with them.
Then more cars. Then another knot of cyclists. Then even more cars and outriders. Then a loose gaggle of more cyclists.
“Who are they?” wondered Suzanne, who was watching the race with me.
“Nothing to do with the race,” said the policewoman who’d been charged with command of our roundabout.
“Ah, Walts” I said, and she smiled agreement. It’s that Spiderman thing again.