Bad Ambassadors

Pootling along today, I was overtaken by a group of five cyclists. Three of them were in a team strip – a local shop’s team; two were in other colours but riding with them. They came by me without a word, riding very, very close to me – unnecessarily so, it wasn’t on a narrow lane. It was unfriendly; you could argue it was sort-of aggressive. In either case I don’t care – I’m big enough and ugly enough to look after myself.

What I do object to was that they made me jump and if I’d be a less experienced rider that would have been either unnerving at best or downright dangerous. If it’d swerved – startled, or to avoid a pot hole for that matter – I could easily have brought them down. It would have been ‘them’ too, as they were dumb enough to be riding tightly together with overlapping wheels, which is a sure-fire way to have a mass crash.

I more-or-less kept up with them for a while, gapped only by the breaks in the traffic. The three in their uniforms went ahead of the other two and I lost sight of them. Tailing the other two, after a while I saw them coming up to a pair of horse-riders. I can’t swear to it because I was several yards back, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t give any warning to the horse-riders that they were approaching – i.e. they treated them with the same rudeness as they did me, but that’s far more dangerous with horses. Certainly, by the time I got to the horses, their riders were well hacked off. Presumably, the three in uniform had been just as inconsiderate.

All in all, it was tedious and wearisome. Whether we like it or not, non-cyclists tend to lump ‘bloody cyclists’ all together. Pretty well all cyclists struggle to be treated fairly on the roads. Cyclists like these five do that struggle no favours at all. They will have won no friends for cycling today.

What’s more, I’m not sure it’s a very sensible thing for the local bike shop to be sponsoring riders like these. Sure, having a sponsor’s presence at race meetings and what-have-you is probably going to help win trade from racing cyclists. I’d wager that there’s far more money to be earned from non-racing cyclists though, and all these ‘brand ambassadors’ are going to achieve are thoroughly alienated casual cyclists. Cycling at any level beyond the most utilitarian can seem very arcane to the outsider. If I were new to riding and had received this kind of treatment from this shop’s team out on the road, then you can be sure I wouldn’t be going to that shop to be similarly looked down upon by the staff, which I’d be quite reasonably assuming would be of the same ilk.

Later, between Wargrave and Crazies Hill, I came across a dead squirrel being eaten by a buzzard – one of those pale-variants with a light coloured head and neck. As he or she was tucking in, a crow was hopping about very nearby, not quite bold enough to grab a bit to eat but nearly. Of course, as I neared they both flew off. When I looked back the crow was tucking in but the buzzard was nowhere to be seen. Curious to see what would happen I stopped (which is unusual for me) and watched for five minutes. In that time three cars went by and each time the crow flew up but was back as soon as it was safe. A magpie turned up but wasn’t brave enough to take on the crow and after the third car disturbed them, didn’t bother to return. The buzzard never showed up again and that’s the bit that struck me as odd; I’d have imagined that would be the dominant one, top of the pecking order, and the one most keen to retain the prize. We imagine all sorts of wrong things.