Dynamightgiveitamiss No.5: La Gazzetta Della Bolshie

March 14, 2011

UPDATE 19/05/11: It’s taken almost two months, but the Lambsters have finally found this post, and The Berk himself has responded on his blog and Twitter. Apparently I’ve accused him of exploiting his illness for financial gains, I’m a stalker, I want him to shut up and, er, I’m fat (ooh, you BITCH). Of course, none of these statements is even remotely true. Especially the stalker bit – I couldn’t think of anything worse than having to meet The Berk. But this is what angry, slightly dim people do: they make stuff up because they want a fight. And I don’t. Which is why, as I said in my original post, I’ve left the whole pointless world of Dynamoaning behind…

Simon Lamb is a berk. It’s an insult to anyone who is bipolar to dismiss them as simply mad or argue that they are never capable of behaving rationally, or that they have lost the ability to reflect on their actions and own up to their mistakes, so Simon Lamb’s berkishness has absolutely nothing to do with his well-documented condition. (Having said that, the charity Mind might want to consider the wisdom of promoting him in the press as an ambassador for the tolerance and understanding of mental health issues when he demonstrates so little of those two qualities towards those whose unhappiness differs from his own.) But he is unquestionably a berk, and he is a berk for many, many reasons. So if you don’t know or care who Lamb is, now is the moment to bail out of what is going to be a very long post…

For a start, Lamb is a berk because he earned himself a legal warning for branding a blameless journalist a racist without offering any evidence whatsoever to back up his claim. The British writer, he alleged, didn’t give Lamb’s banned hero Alexander Vinokourov a chance to explain himself – a bizarre claim in light of the Kazakh’s unwillingness to offer any sort of credible explanation for his positive doping test. And while I wouldn’t call Lamb a racist, I think he’s a massive berk for not considering that in comparison with the argument about Vino, most people are more likely to raise an eyebrow when a bloke casually uses the phrase “fucking Jews” while tweeting one of his mates.

There’s more, of course. Lots more. Lamb is a berk because he made an unfunny remark about how he would like to see Pat McQuaid die and didn’t apologise when the UCI president’s son politely complained. He’s a berk because his appropriation of a cancer foundation’s logo for his own glorification and, as it appeared to at least one casual observer, seemingly for his own financial gain, was spun into a sentimental story of little-guy-hits-back-at-humourless-legal-bad-guys with, preposterously, none other than Lance Armstrong lurking in the background. He’s a berk for casually mentioning that sales of his massage oils, while perfectly in line with the benefits system he relies on, have funded his sports massage course after originally claiming his website is “purely for my interest in cycling”. He’s a berk when you consider his lofty motto of “calm is the virtue of the strong” is hilariously at odds with the size of his hate list, which includes David Millar, a number of specialist sports magazines, a certain member of Kingston Wheelers cycling club, the Daily Mail and the BBC (surely a unique double-whammy), and, of course, his bete noir Armstrong. And he’s a berk for attacking Shutt Velo Rapide when the fledgling clothing manufacturer allegedly suffered quality control problems with his jerseys and he didn’t get his way on pricing and copyright issues. (Incidentally, Lamb’s beloved Rapha also had quality control issues in its early days which it resolved, and the company now occasionally sends him free gear to review. And the now-defunct website Lamb used to attack Shutt was Velocast, who seemed to be quite happy with their jerseys, which were made by none other than… Shutt Velo Rapide!)

Simon Lamb is a hopeless, floundering, fulminating berk for all of these reasons, and that is enough in itself for La Gazzetta Della Bici, a landfill site for his petty vendettas, cycling-based trivia and uncaptioned photos of dead sportsmen to make my list of things that are the absolute antithesis of this blog. (Incidentally, what kind of egotistical berk appropriates the name of a famous newspaper just to get a few more hits?) But for me, his biggest act of berkishness was when he found out where a complete stranger worked, sent him an abusive message, and accused him of saying something he didn’t. But I would say that, wouldn’t I? Because I was that stranger who stumbled unwittingly into the weird world of Simon Lamb, an angry man perpetually on the lookout for a fight, and in doing so falling far short of the high standards he sets for others.

In May last year, Lamb discovered I was a member of a cycling club he irrationally despises and used this as the flimsy basis to wrongly claim on Twitter that I wanted him to “shout” (sic) his mouth. (A lovely, prophetic irony: I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to shut his mouth – if I had a worst enemy – but I would love him to shout, and shout his mouth off for as long and as loudly as he could, just so he can prove to as many people as possible what a gigantic idiot he actually is.) The previous night, Lamb had blogged in characteristically intemperate and exaggerated terms about a friend of his who he claimed was bullied by a group of London Dynamo riders on the Parkride, the club’s regular Saturday morning outing in Richmond Park. At the time, Lamb had more than a thousand followers, and the link was retweeted at least a dozen times; understandably, then, there was much anger about the incident, particularly as Lamb’s friend and her mate were female and novices, while the Dynamo riders who were said to be shouting at them to move as they went past (which is what the alleged bullying amounted to) were apparently experienced riders and male.

There were just two problems: the specifics of the incident, in the terms Lamb described them, in all likelihood didn’t take place, and he wasn’t there at the time (to this day, no one seems to know who those Dynamos were). The woman, perhaps realising what had actually happened during those fraught moments at that particular road’s busiest time, or maybe concerned at Lamb’s disproportionate anger, apparently got him to call off the dogs after a few days of his unedifying swear-packed tweets, which he had used to propose a ludicrous theory that the majority of Dynamos let the minority get away with pushing around other riders – in other words, fostering a culture of bullying. Behind the scenes, a number of reasonably well-known London-based cycling bloggers were distancing themselves from Lamb’s remarks, and a respected journalist from a bike magazine (not the one he would later brand a racist) expressed his concerns, prompting Lamb to award him the sobriquet of… well, it begins with a “c” and he uses it a lot, so you can probably guess. But it was some subtle diplomacy from the guys who run the club that really did the trick – and so, without his friend to publicly back up his dramatic claims, Lamb turned down an offer to meet the Dynamo committee and removed all the relevant posts from his blog before tweeting a lame warning to the “cowards” in Richmond Park. Ironically, given his readiness to brand other people cowards, that tweet was also later deleted – a common occurrence in the world of Lamb, and the reason I began screengrabbing so many of them. Unfortunately, his deleted blog posts weren’t quite as perishable: they were picked up by another blog, which you can still find with a bit of googling.

London needs Dynamo, despite all its imperfections. Before it began, club cycling in the capital was a closed-off world to anyone who wanted to join the sport (I know because I was one of them), and its club rides still attract scores of cyclists of all abilities throughout the year. But to internet-dwelling wingnuts such as simple Simon, it matters little that Dynamo has welcomed hundreds of people into the sport he supposedly loves, helped them become decent cyclists, and become an actual, real-life community of friends. It also doesn’t matter to them that its committee acts as a means for ordinary cyclists to express their concerns to the authorities dealing with Richmond Park (you have LD partly to thank for partially resolving the horrid resurfacing) or that a committee member recently persuaded the owners of the much-loved MoD track in Chertsey to reopen it for a one-day trial run. Neither do they care that the club takes a very dim view when its members genuinely fail to ride with consideration and care for others. Lamb and others like him see the oft-quoted figure of 400 members and simply equate big with bad. Their attacks follow a tried-and-tested formula: make a false or exaggerated claim on the internet, maintain a level of anonymity by declining the offer of a face-to-face chat and a coffee (easy to set up, given that most of the friendly committee and the faceless complainants are both usually in Richmond Park on Saturday mornings) and fantasise about physically attacking a Dynamo or, in a particularly nasty case on the wretched Veloriders forum which has since been deleted, seeing one of them die. In the face of ever-increasing membership numbers, they also ignore a simple question: why haven’t members left the club in droves if they’re supposedly surrounded by a bunch of arrogant bastards? Wouldn’t you leave if that was the case? Maybe Dynamo has become big in a relatively short space of time because it’s friendly and well-run – or is that statement just too straightforward and logical to comprehend?

And whatever half-baked theory the haters propose, there are numerous sensible counter-arguments. Yes, I’m sure some Dynamos have shouted at other cyclists and switched wheels, but then I’ve witnessed riders from other teams and clubs do the same for years. Yes, poor bike handling has been a feature of LD rides, mainly because a greater proportion is inexperienced in comparison to other large clubs, yet Dynamo’s safety record in relation to the number of miles covered is nevertheless excellent. Yes, it can be intimidating when an experienced group of ‘Mos passes you at speed, even though they endeavour to do it safely – although for every rider who complains we’re going too fast, another will say we’re going too slow. And yes, Dynamos have, regrettably, sometimes been witnessed behaving aggressively when commuting, but then the blue, black and orange tops are a commoner sight than other clubs’ jerseys on London’s streets. (A pertinent, if somewhat vain fact: the look of Dynamo’s kit is one of the most popular reasons members give for joining, which could mean that in comparison with other similar-sized clubs, Dynamos are more likely to wear club colours when not riding with their clubmates.) In truth, Dynamos aren’t ruder than anyone else, nor is there a greater likelihood of them breaking the rules; there are just more of us, and we’re more conspicuous.

Lamb, however, differs in two respects from your typical Dynamo-hater. Firstly, he may not have only fantasised about violence, if his claim that he was a member of a group of football hooligans called the 6.57 crew is anything to go by. And secondly, he is now attempting to show us all how things should be done by starting his very own cycling club – and in the words of one of his internet chums which he was only to happy to use as promotion for his new venture, it’s the “polar opposite” of the outfit which has had such a Lambasting.

Men and women’s racing teams, strong representation at sportives, a website functioning as a virtual clubhouse, weekly club rides and members of all abilities (some of whom are based overseas), not to mention supporting good causes… Gruppo Sportivo Gazzetta’s list of aims is notably ambitious and, perhaps not co-incidentally, somewhat similar to what London Dynamo has already achieved along the way. Indeed, GS Gazzetta, to use its slightly less cumbersome appellation, also seems to share a core Dynamo value in the sense that Lamb realises the importance of having well-designed kit, although the pre-release photos reveal he’s played it a little too safe with an uninspired, Rapha-lite, white-on-black design. Nevertheless, the Gazzas do, as Lambster Tom claims in the above link, represent a real difference to the club I’ve been a member of since its inception, so much so that they may as well be called Not London Dynamo, which would at least be less of a mouthful. And the difference with Not London Dynamo is this: its two leaders, for all their enthusiasm, appear to be remarkably inexperienced riders. Having ridden myself with Lamb’s chum Teresa Houghton and spoken with a friend who rode the London to Paris with her, I would suggest that her focus on spin classes has had a detrimental effect on her ability to develop group riding skills. Lamb, meanwhile, had been riding for barely more than a year when he fractured his left arm and collarbone and wrote off his bike on Not London Dynamo’s first-ever ride last November. In terms of serious accidents per total miles travelled, the Gazzas immediately became a more crash-prone club than London Dynamo before it had even officially accepted its first membership application. Quite an achievement.

Contrast Not London Dynamo – essentially a group of strangers who met on the internet – with the pedigree of London Dynamo’s founders: an accomplished time trialist (Guy Andrews), a talented former BMXer (Russell Short) and a pretty handy road racer (Paul Callinan). That’s a huge range of skills to pass on, especially to the fat, clueless novice I used to be, and of much more practical use than, say, the ability to crow about owning Michael Barry’s hat collection. As far as I’m concerned, Not London Dynamo doesn’t deserve to call itself a cycling club unless it can develop skills and encourage safe riding, because that, essentially, is the true value of the club system. But I wouldn’t hold your breath: contradicting the official rules on the Gazzas’ site, Lamb himself apparently wants his “club” to ignore the two abreast formation fundamental to safe riding because they are supposed to be a “rabble”. He expressed this view a week after coming off, so his accident may have been caused by more than just an error on his part. If that’s the case, the haters will now have another bunch of riders to moan about, perhaps with good reason this time. If they don’t, well, there’s plenty of other reasons to take issue with Lamb, and that could be why he shut down his personal Twitter account a few weeks ago: get off the stage before the audience turns and the rotten tomatoes come flying your way…

I wrote all this for two reasons. Firstly, terms such as “bloody Dynamos” have become the equivalent of “bloody cyclists” for people who ride a bike but are now just as intransigent as the type of motorists all riders dislike, and while I no longer enjoy poking fun at these idiots for using the club I love as their personal punchbag, I couldn’t walk away from these pointless arguments for good without setting the record straight. Secondly, there is virtually no criticism of Lamb online, which is a marked contrast to many of the face-to-face conversations I’ve had during the past ten months, so I wanted to redress that balance in a small way on this little blog – and for the record, I honestly harbour no desire to rival Lamb’s online presence. Given his previous form, Lamb will probably resort to name-calling and dredge up aspects of my life that have little or nothing to do with cycling; maybe he’ll even trawl through my tweets and falsely reason that some of the opinions I express chiefly to my friends are the same as his targeted, vitriolic hate campaigns. But hey, that’s his call, and a measure of his class or lack of it. Either way, I’m not going to mention his name in these pages ever again, and this entry won’t be open for comments – I’ll leave the half-truths, backbiting and exaggerations for his blog.

If you want to support Mind, you can avoid the Gazzas by donating money to the organisation directly. As for supporting young riders, I would recommend you have a look at the John Ibbotson Fund, or maybe even consider entering its auction for Rouleur issue #1. And here’s a final thought to any Lamb fans – and there appears to be many of them – who believe he should remain beyond criticism because of what he’s been through: some defenders of Armstrong say much the same thing about their hero. Do you think, maybe, that Lamb is using mental health issues in a similar way but on a smaller scale to that which many think his hate-target uses cancer? Because if he is, then Lamb isn’t such a berk after all…

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