I don’t remember the colour but I can sort of remember riding a tricycle when I was very young. The tricycle was eventually replaced with a normal little bicycle, but with stabilisers attached, and I can remember being rather attached to the idea of a bike with stabilisers attached. Then I can remember being on the bike after my Dad had removed the stabilisers and he was holding on to the back of the seat and running behind me as I wobbled along and then he let go without telling me and when I looked round to see that he was no longer my last remaining stabilising force I promptly fell over and I probably cried for a bit before we started all over again. And from that day on I could ride a bike. The bikes got bigger until I stopped getting bigger and I was a good cyclist. I still am, I suppose, but in my heyday I could do wheelies and cycle ‘no-hands’ and of course back then no one bothered with soft shite like helmets, and kids always cycled on the pavement and there were definitely fewer kitted out twats weaving their way through early morning traffic. Twats like Jeremy Vine.
I say all this because the point I’m trying to make is that I learnt to ride a bike through trial and error; through an acceptance that in order to succeed one must also be prepared to fail and also look like a nob doing it. It was the same for swimming, tying my own shoelaces, doing a tie, putting in contact lenses, writing legibly, typing, ironing a shirt and driving a car. It took time to do those things and I managed them all because someone showed me the basics and then I tried and tried and tried until I was good at them. Evidently this is not how it’s done anymore, or at least it’s not how it’s done if the evidence is Sir Chris Hoy’s newish book – ‘How To Ride a Bike’, which is as shameless as it is pointless or artless. And is to say utterly, comprehensively and completely.
Chris Hoy, or Sir Chris Hoy to anyone who wants to kiss his muscular arse, may well be an Olympic hero with more medals than Hermann Goering but I’m afraid his whole life has been devoted to a sport that I have less than very little time for. I find riding a bike a perfectly reasonable distraction (or at least I did when I used to have a bike) but watching other people riding bikes, in any circumstance, is about as appealing as a long soak in a bath filled with clotted elephant semen. Chris Hoy is to be admired rather than loved, respected rather than adored; and I’m afraid the idea of writing a book about how to ride a bike is a not even a slightly concealed grab at as much cash and publicity as possible. I expect his manager made him do it. It get 5 stars on Amazon but I dare say that’s because most people who bought it are embarrassed to say they’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake.
You see, Chris Hoy may know everything there is to know about bikes but even he must also know that riding a bike isn’t the kind of thing you learn about in a book. Reading the ‘SAS Survival Handbook’ by Lofty Wiseman doesn’t magically make you a member of The SAS, or indeed necessarily any better at surviving in the wilderness (unless you carry a copy around with you at all times). And how much about riding a bike isn’t already startling obvious? Hoy suggests picking the right bike for you and a bike that you are comfortable on. Duh! Hoy gives handy hints on what to wear (tip: taking part in a gruelling bike race works better if you’re not dressed as a comedy banana), what to eat (tip: taking part in a gruelling bike race works better if you’ve eaten a banana, but not a comedy one), and how gears work (tip: mistake bicycle gears with a bunch of bananas at your peril). On some level this is all quite insulting.
What’s left about riding a bike is covered in predictably Olympian levels of detail and naturally the book contains many shots of Hoy effortlessly riding a bike and showing off his mutant thigh muscles; his rippled man-body swathed in skin tight Lycra – hot bike porn for horny bike perverts. He discusses (read – bangs on about) sports psychology and mental techniques and the contents of a workable ‘training toolkit’. But surely none of this matters as long as you can ride a bike; and let’s face it anyone can read and read and read about that for a months of Sundays but it still won’t make doing it any easier. So Hoy (Britain’s greatest or joint greatest Olympian – the foreword can’t seem to decide) has sunk from being a respected sporting champion to being a cheap, opportunistic huckster with a book to sell and this is rather depressing, and I felt I had to get it off my chest. He has joined every other sporting legend who didn’t need the money but has got the ego.
As a way of wrapping up: in case you were interested the book was dropped off at work in one of those cheap book club bundles of crap that no-one would normally buy. Other titles included ‘Jamie Cooks Italy’ and ‘Help Your Kids with SATS’ by Carol Vorderman; which tells you the kind of celeb-crap market we’re talking about. Buried in the box was also a little kids book called ‘I Can Tie My Shoelaces’, which opened up to reveal an actual pair of shoelaces that you can practice your tying on, and that made it exactly 100% more useful than ‘How to Ride a Bike’ by Sir Chris Hoy. So thanks, but no thanks, Sir Chris. I don’t want to get any better at cycling and I already know how to ride a bike because my Dad taught me by sitting me on an effing bike and showing me how to make the wheels go round and round. And besides, my Dad’s way better than Sir Chris Hoy.
G B Hewitt. 06.03.2019