Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Dropping performance from the team

August 3, 2016

If you were asked what kind of cyclist you are, what would you say? You might describe yourself as a racer, a road cyclist, a leisure cyclist, or even a serious cyclist. But I would bet your entire collection of bikes – and mine – that you would never say out loud to a total stranger: “I am a performance cyclist.”

I am nearing the end of writing and editing text for the new London Dynamo website, a long process which has involved expunging the “p” word from all our public-facing wording. Internally, Dynamo likes to describe itself as a performance-oriented club, which I suppose is a reasonable expression of how it cultivates a narrow band of high-performing riders which can inspire the rest of the membership and give aspirational or more talented members something to aim for. Externally, though, it can give the impression that we are all data-driven wattage nerds, which most of us are not. Sport-oriented is a simpler and clearer definition of Dynamo.

How did the ‘p’ word become ubiquitous? It’s origin can be traced to a familiar source. “Performance Roadwear” became Rapha’s slogan, even though its co-founder originally thought the term was “a slightly pompous piece of marketing copy” which he bunged underneath the brand’s logo simply to complete its design. Despite this, performance quickly became a way of denoting special features such as ventilated panels or an aerodynamic cut, which meant that the word functioned as a polite way of saying expensive. But the popularity of cycling and the consequent falling prices are now eroding that definition: for less than £45, you can buy a performance jersey and bib shorts from Aldi, and even Rapha’s performance sunnies are a relatively inexpensive £140.

When Halfords, Evans and other Johnny-come-latelys moved into the high-end bike market, smaller retailers branded themselves as performance businesses, targeting riders who were prepared to pay for a tailored, personalised service. Today, physios, chiros, personal trainers and all kinds of small, secondary businesses use “performance cyclist” or a similar term. And in this context, performance provides a useful differentiation: it tells customers they can provide them with an evidence-based explanation of how their body can perform better on a bicycle.

But what works as a branding tool fails to translate on an interpersonal level. Performance is bit like hipster: a word used to define others rather than a term a person would use to describe themselves. And coming from a newspaper background, I choose words a bit like a directeur sportif picks riders. A sentence or a phrase is a team of words working together. Performance doesn’t perform, so it has to be dropped.

An easy job and blowing someone else’s trumpet

July 22, 2016

A couple of fun gigs came my way recently. The first was a trip to Ibiza to write a feature for The Sun about easyJet’s new cycling holiday packages. Two of my ride companions were former England rugby player Austin Healey and his chum Andrew Ridgeley from Wham! (that’s them with me in the above picture taken by David Oxberry) who were completing a 1,000-mile fundraising trek for the Lawrence Dallaglio Foundation. You never know who you’re going to meet when you turn up for a group ride, but it will take me a while to top that particular combination. My piece appeared in Sunday’s paper and you can read it here.


My second surprise came when Look Mum No Hands! proprietor and erstwhile Dynamo Sam Humpheson asked me to do a few rewrites and headlines for a mini-newspaper he was putting together, the bulk of which I managed to complete while in Ibiza. The freesheet is chiefly an introduction to the Old Street and Brixton cafes for new customers at Look Mum’s pop-up on the Southbank, so grab a copy if you’re heading there or to the two main sites to watch the final stages of the Tour this weekend.

The paper is called The LMNH Bugle, which I think trumpets its knockabout tone perfectly. Jen came up with the name when I told her I couldn’t think of one. She doesn’t like to blow her own bugle, so I’m doing it for her.

Bontrager’s Bullshitter

July 14, 2016

Jasper Stuyven, above, and other members of Trek-Segafredo’s Tour de France team are wearing a helmet called the Ballista.

Bontrager says the name comes from an ancient Greek missile launcher. Unfortunately, it appears that “ballista” is also the Italian word for… bullshitter.

We all know some firms use exotic-sounding names to imbue their products with a bogus authenticity. But could this be the first instance of a company, unwittingly or not, acknowledging that practice?

If the crash hat fits…

Heading back to the Dynamothership

February 5, 2016

So it’s official: I have returned to the welcoming bosom of the London Dynamo committee, this time to take up the new post of communications manager. My last stint was as part of the founding committee; in those early days my job was to write an amusing and reasonably informative newsletter called DYNAMITE!, which this blog originally served as an archive for the weekly publication’s entire five-year run (you can have a gander at it by clicking the “DYNAMITE! Filed” link on the left). I doubt anything I do this time around will be half as popular as that freewheeling weekly email. So why am I going back?

I came up with the idea of a communications manager after the club had to deal with two contrasting incidents during the past 12 months: the death of Akis Kollaros, who was killed under the wheels of a lorry a year ago this week, and poor old Rory Palmer leaving the club because he got busted for riding his bike downhill at 40mph in Richmond Park. At the Hillingdon Winter Series, our riders led two neutralised laps in honour of Akis, and ran an interview with our chairman Paul Harknett about the issue of speeding in the park. The small upside of both unfortunate incidents is that they provided rare occasions for Dynamo to communicate beyond its membership, and in each case it did so in an admirable way.

But as I asked during my short speech at our AGM on Saturday, why should the club communicate to the wider cycling world only when things go wrong? Dynamo does a lot of good projects – our growing junior section Sparks, our efforts to make sure Richmond Park’s poor resurfacing was sorted out, putting on two sell-out time trials in the park every year as well as a superbly well-organised road race – and I would like to tell more people about them using the club’s social media channels and through news outlets. So that’s what I will try to do.

What I am not going to do is try to change the opinion of the small but noisy band who will never like Dynamo. We are more conspicuous than other cycling clubs for many reasons – for a start, our cornerstone club ride takes us past the most popular cycling destination in the world at its busiest time – so we are always going to take a greater level of flak than most when, like all clubs, our standards slip from time to time. Fighting skirmishes is self-defeating; the bigger prize is to win over those who are impartial and encourage existing supporters to spread the word.

There was one exchange of views at the end of last year that made me realise once and for all that it is pointless to try to win over the most deeply entrenched critics. As you undoubtedly already know, 18-year-old Catford CC rider Gabriel Evans was caught taking EPO and rejoined Dynamo without telling us that he was being investigated. After Dynamo expelled him in December, the club tweeted its zero tolerance stance on doping. It was the sort of obvious but necessary statement you would expect a responsible organisation to make, especially one which is obliged to deal with the welfare of teenagers.

Luke Scheybeler, who founded Rapha and as far as I am aware remains a major shareholder, didn’t see it that way. “Genuine lol”, he tweeted, later stating that the club’s stance showed “unbelieveable pomposity”. (There is, of course, the wonderful irony of being called pompous by the man who gave us Rapha.) And Mr ScheybeLOL, in what is a first for Dynamo, believes the club has a “‘let’s pretend we’re pros’ attitude that’s led to kids taking dangerous drugs”.


So every time a bunch of thirty- or forty-something blokes race up a hill on their bicycles or shave their legs, we are somehow meant to believe they are encouraging teens to take PEDs. Depending on how you look at it, this notion is either a conspiracy theory or a moral panic of the kind you would expect to be wheeled out by a clapped-out politician. And it’s not the greatest idea to slag off some of your customers, which is probably why Rapha quickly and wisely distanced itself from its co-founder’s opinions.

It may seem unusual, but Luke’s curious Scheybelogic is part of the natural process of enmity: sneer for long enough and you will eventually have to come up with new reasons to maintain the intensity of your dislike, even if those reasons are wholly imagined. Which is why on my watch Dynamo is never going to engage with the sort of cyclist whose sport is not cycling but blustering.

The 20mph limit works in Richmond Park. Let’s not try to lose it.

December 1, 2015

me on sawyer's hill

You can see it in their eyes, an expression that may be politely interpreted as “Oh dear. I’ve really made a terrible hash of this, haven’t I?” It’s a look of alarm that I’ve witnessed a number of times over the past decade or so in Richmond Park, and it’s always staring at me from behind a windscreen. Motorists sometimes concentrate so hard on safely overtaking a cyclist that they don’t see a group of oncoming riders on the other side of the road who have already started to perform their own safe overtaking manoeuvre. I’m often in one of those groups. The car moves around the cyclist in front of it and the wide space we had to snake around a slower rider suddenly concertinas to half the size, forcing our two-abreast formation to squeeze into one line. Still, it all works out fine: the motorist learns a lesson (I would hope) and our cycling club lives to see another Saturday morning club ride.

I thought about those drivers when I read about the latest cyclist to get busted for exceeding Richmond Park’s speed limit. When I started riding in the park, the limit was 30mph and traffic levels were much lower. When the limit was lowered to 20 in May 2004, my indignation was typical of many two-wheeled users of the park – apparently it was meant to benefit pedestrians, deer and even the sex life of birds (apparently the sound of motor engines drowned out mating calls) but I couldn’t find a single mention of cyclists in the consultation document drawn up by the Royal Parks (which is no longer on its website). My perception was that we weren’t asked for our opinion; now, however, I realise the lowering of the speed limit has been a happy accident for us. Rerun the scenario I’ve outlined above with the limit still at 30, and both the motorist and the cyclists have much less time to react. For that reason alone, I’m pretty much in favour of it remaining at 20mph for motorists — and to keep it that way, we have to ensure the limit can continue being applied to cyclists as well.

Cycling advocacy lawyer Martin Porter has offered to defend on a no-win no-fee basis the next cyclist who is fined for speeding in the park. In a sense — a very limited sense — this would be a welcome development. “Vehicle” appears in the park’s regulations for speed limits, and the police are interpreting that word to include bicycles as well as cars. But there are some people who, like Martin but more often than not without his legal expertise, believe the police’s interpretation is incorrect and cyclists are exempt from the 20mph limit. It is an opinion which, it seems to me, has transmogrified in certain quarters into established fact through sheer repetition, so a proper challenge in court would at least determine once and for all if cyclists can legally ride at whatever speed they choose on our beloved 6.7-mile loop.

But as much as I admire Martin’s work, I think in this case he is thinking more like a lawyer and less like a cyclist. He is applying loophole logic, spotting a way out without considering what the consequences of an exit from an established system might be. Because if we can shoot downhill at around 40mph, as the two most recent cases of speeding did, what then? Would cycling in the park be safer? Would it be easier to police a two-tier system of 20mph for drivers and no maximum limit for cyclists? And would motorists be as likely to keep their speedometer’s needle below 20 if there was one rule for them and another rule (actually, scratch that — no rule at all) for cyclists?

These are questions to which the answer is no. The 20mph limit allows fast cyclists to safely overtake cars while motorists can safely overtake slower riders. Yet from the fierceness of the arguments made against it, you would think that it was an unpopular rule among cyclists, which is difficult to square with the massive rise in riders using the park since it was introduced, to the point where Strava reported that the cafe at Roehampton Gate has become the most popular cycling stop in the world.

The fact is, no one gets on their bike and heads to Richmond Park fearing they’re going to get stopped for speeding. You are not going to get pulled over simply for nudging 25. You are not a victim, and you are not being victimised. The most recent speeding cases were going at around twice the limit down the park’s smallest hill — a feat which is near impossible to achieve unless you are trying very, very hard to do so. If you think what they did was harmless, then imagine driving with either of those two behind you as you try to overtake a cyclist in front: a glance in your mirror would show them to be some distance away, and just as you move right expecting them to still be far off, they could suddenly rear up next to your door. Twice the speed limit means half the time to react.

Of course there are aggressive drivers in the park, and Martin says he would like to see resources spent more on dealing with all kinds of bad driving rather than focussing on speed — but I would argue that the police may not need to spend any more money to address this issue. As last December’s public meeting at Duke Street Church indicated, cyclists and non-cyclists appeared to agree that there are far too many drivers using the park as a shortcut, and it seems possible that the Royal Parks, which recently issued a questionnaire on the issue and set up temporary cameras to record traffic flow, may introduce road charging to keep most of them out. I reckon that if you’re driving along Queen’s Ride only to get to Bentalls a few minutes quicker, you’re the sort of driver who is more likely, shall we say, to treat cyclists as a nuisance, so let’s see if road charging happens and observe any beneficial effect it has on this kind of motorist before demanding the police act. I also think that criticising the police in this way overlooks their success: in terms of man hours, policing of the limit is actually very light, yet it has helped create an environment where the vast majority of park users are happy to abide by it. Compare that to the roads connected to the park which need speed humps and cameras to keep drivers below 20mph, or the roads near London Bridge or Southwark Bridge which have neither — and, as I witness daily, attract drivers who treat it as a normal 30mph limit.

Given that the latest cyclist to get nabbed was left £600 out of pocket following a trip to the magistrates court, I suspect that what the anti-20mph faction really don’t like is the cost of getting caught. On that point, I have some sympathy, and I suspect the police do too. At the Duke Street Church meeting, I recall one of the two police representatives stating that they would like to issue Fixed Penalty Notices (which would be much lower) but the law doesn’t allow them to. If Martin Porter wanted to campaign to get that changed, I would happily sign up. But the 20mph rule works well and we should not try to undermine it.

One tiny prick hasn’t deflated the dream

November 18, 2015

It was the briefest of pricks. I didn’t think it would sting. I thought it would be completely undetectable. But he felt it. Boy, he felt it.

Walking towards me, this guy had suddenly turned left into my path, causing me to step back and swerve out of his way so he could barge into Tesco, his face buried in his phone.

“Prick,” I mumbled. I barely heard it myself.

But he wasn’t looking at his phone now. He’s lumbering behind me, bulky and indignant, shouting over and over, “WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME?”

I got to the cashpoint next to the Tesco. “I think we both know that I called you a prick,” I tell him as I take my card out of the machine. I’m smiling at him. It’s lunchtime on a weekday near Monument station in central London and he’s not going to fight me. Not with all these people walking by, surely, and not when he’s wearing a fucking suit.

He tells me I should be saying sorry to him because I was in his way, and I know I can’t top that, so I just shake my head and carry on smiling as I take a couple of tenners from the machine. Brilliantly, he provides the topper himself: “I WANT A REACTION” he shouts, clumsily trying to fill the gap I’ve left.

“Mate,” I say to him, even though I never call a stranger “mate”. But fuck it, let’s see what happens when I do. “Mate,” I say, “you got a reaction. You’re just fucked off because it’s not the one you wanted.”

He’s silent and for a moment I realise I may have got the odds wrong. He’s going to hit me. I can sense it. Then there’s another couple of seconds of him seething and me smiling and I know his chance has gone. I’m going to walk away from this. But before I go, he says something which sets the tone for a series of random yet revealing encounters I’m going to have during the next 18 months.

He says, “You think you’re so superior just because you’re a cyclist.

Now at this point, I would dearly love to be incredibly superior and tell you that he identified a fellow pedestrian as a cyclist because I am, of course, in superb physical condition and I regularly draw gasps from passing strangers. Sadly, it was actually because I was pushing my bike along the pavement at the time. So instead of acting superior I’ll be grateful that The Lunchtime Thug, who wanted to teach me a lesson, actually taught me something more valuable: there is now a personality type that does not care how well you ride or even if you are riding at all. They are certain you are in the wrong chiefly because you happen to be a cyclist.

It happened again around six months later on another pavement and another lunchtime, on this occasion in Soho. I was running way ahead of time for a hospital appointment that I knew would bring a long-running series of check-ups to a welcome conclusion, so I wanted to find somewhere nice to eat beforehand. A quiet celebration for one. I had given up trying to work out the logic of Soho’s one-way streets and no-entry signs and was walking with my bike when two teenagers, looking like a pair of Dappys, rushed past me on the narrow pavement. One said to the other tetchily: “Cyclists should stay on the road.” Even when they’re not riding, it seems.

The next encounter was with a much older man, an Eighties throwback in one of those brown leather aviator jackets with the collar turned up, who expressed a similar view to Soho Dappy. He was walking in a cycle lane in Kingston a few months ago while having a telephone conversation as I freewheeled slowly behind him. After three polite “excuse mes” on my part, he finally turned round and moved to the pavement, but not before telling me I should have cycled on the road.

Finally, there was the night I came off on Borough High Street when I was trying to dodge a Friday night reveller. I was crawling along at less than 10mph when he suddenly appears, stepping out from behind a stationary bus. My front wheel tapped his leg and I hit the tarmac, where I lay for a few seconds, largely unhurt, listening to his angry lecture on the subject of how cyclists never look where they’re going. He was looking the wrong way before I hit him.

There was a time when I thought cycling in London would be accepted as a normal activity supported by the majority. And remarkably, as Andrew Gilligan pointed out last week in an Evening Standard piece about public consultations for road alterations, statistics show it pretty much has. In London, the majority don’t want fewer cyclists riding on the road (or having the temerity to walk on the pavement); they want more. That means, of course, that the dream of a completely cycle-friendly city is still within grasp. But the sour encounters I’ve had with cycle-unfriendly strangers fascinates me. How did seemingly normal people become so entrenched, so far beyond reason?

Perhaps it’s because they know they will never get their way. Many years ago, I’d frequently see badly-photocopied flyers in bike shops advertising mass gatherings of cyclists, the ultimate aim of these protests being the removal of motor vehicles from the road for good. Which, of course, did not come to pass. At the core of those fringe groups was a belief that the motorist was always, always wrong. Now the constituency of the fringe has moved: it is now populated by very different people who believe it is cyclists who are always, always wrong. Neither is true. But expressing it fuels a delusion that they might, somehow, go away one day.

Crowdfunding is great for new ideas – maybe it could work for old ideals as well

November 6, 2015

brixton cycles shopfront

How much is a principle worth? Last week it was £40,000; this week, it’s gone up to £80,000 – and I’m not going to argue with either of those valuations. It is immensely cheering to see Brixton Cycles reach its original crowdfunding goal in less than seven days, and I wouldn’t bet against them hitting their new target. That quasi-mythical entity called “the market” may have decided that an already-gentrified area of south London should have even more luxury flats, but the real market – us lot, the people who spend thousands of pounds on our hobby over a lifetime – place more value on relocating a long-established cycling business before the diggers loom over their present home.

None of this altruism should be surprising. Despite all the internal divisions and snobbery, cyclists are inclined to look out for each other – rarely I have punctured and not had at least one passing rider ask if I needed help. What is notable in Brixton Cycles’ case, though, is the rate at which donors have rushed to their aid: to put it into some kind of context, the infamous Kimmage Defence Fund, (which, although ultimately mismanaged, nevertheless involved some far more well-known names on both sides of the mooted libel case it was set up to fight) took less than 40 per cent of the repair shop’s seven-day total over the same period.

Perhaps that reflects how much more popular crowdfunding has become since fans tried to come to Paul Kimmage’s aid three years ago. These days, though, cycling-related crowdfunded campaigns usually involve backing an idea that will be turned into physical goods, so in that sense Brixton Cycles is swimming against the tide. They are asking you to pay for an ideal, not a product.

Somewhat tangentially, I thought about the role of crowdfunding shortly after I stumbled across Martin Porter’s observations on private prosecutions which were part of his contribution to the Commons Transport Select Committee on Road Traffic Law Enforcement. Essentially, he sets out how difficult it is for cyclists to bring private prosecutions in relation to an incident on the road, and Martin believes a change in the law is required to bring down the barriers currently in place.

You can read Martin’s evidence and decide for yourself. What struck me about it, though, is that crowdfunding could be an effective way to mount a campaign for an issue such as this. Too often, it seems that cycling advocacy groups aim for broad targets that the majority of us would want – better infrastructure, fewer motor vehicles on the road, stiffer sentences for poor driving – rather than focussing on specifics or what may be achievable. Another issue, for me, is that many club cyclists and serious recreational riders aren’t members of the CTC, LCC or similar groups. Maybe the way forward would be to pick just one goal, set out a strategy, and ask all of us for money to fund the campaign.

But that’s a thought for the future. In the meantime, you can contribute to Brixton Cycles’ campaign here.

Total freedom… ‘Dam, this would never work in London

October 29, 2015
There's no limits.

There’s no limit.

A couple of weeks ago, to take a break from riding my bike, I travelled with Jen to a city that is synonymous with cycling. As first-time visitors to Amsterdam, we soon learned to walk in single file whenever a cyclist came towards us on one of the narrow paths by the canals. Here, the bike is king: cyclists aren’t bound by red lights, and every day we were doing the Tourist Safety Dance, stepping off the kerb and back on it again to avoid clusters of cyclists barrelling along the road, then repeating the steps a few times until there was a gap in the two-wheeled traffic big enough for us to reach the other side. We didn’t mind playing Frogger and it looked like no one else does either. Humans, unlike arcade amphibians, are natural adaptors. That’s why they’ve been around so long.

But bike culture, like any other type of culture, isn’t an exportable product that can be bundled on a plane and flown back to London. Almost every Amsterdammer rides shopping bikes, which means everyone travels at roughly the same speed, making it relatively simple for pedestrians to dodge them (even though they’re going somewhat faster than you might expect a clunky sit-up-and-beg to move). I think the speeds of London’s cyclists are simply too varied for this Amsterdanarchy to work.

Indeed, the Dutch capital is a million miles from the world of Britain’s serious recreational cyclist. I could count the number of drop handlebars we saw on the fingers of one hand, and a large newsagent we stumbled upon which stocked a considerable selection of magazines from every consumer sector you can think of – home and garden, music, video games, children’s titles, you name it – had only a tiny selection of titles covering cycle sport.

Riding a bike in London is an act of rejecting the limits placed on your movement by motor traffic and, to a lesser extent, public transport. It is expressive, individualistic, maybe even (in the most antisocial cases) transgressive. In Amsterdam, where I saw a beaming little girl perched on the front of her dad’s bike as we walked to the Hermitage museum, cycling is a shared culture. To get to that point, London cyclists would need to compromise the way they ride, which would be a change more significant than any road-building, law-changing or investment in infrastructure. Would we ever be prepared to make that leap?    

Pinning down my bikes

September 22, 2015

Every man who reaches a certain age will find his attention turning to sheds, and I am certainly no exception. We’ve had one built at the end of our garden, chiefly to house my bicycles – and oddly enough, it has had a liberating effect on my life. The bikes are no longer needy house guests forever dripping oil on our floorboards and peeking out at me from the spare room. I can now wait for the urge to get out on my bike, rather than feeling subconsciously goaded into riding by catching sight of my bikes every time I cross the hallway.

A purpose-built security shed complete with five-lever locks and a couple of concreted-in ground anchors was by far the most expensive solution to storing the bikes, but it offered the fewest compromises. An Asgard metal locker would have taken up too much space in our little garden, and fitting one inside our old rickety shed would limit storage space. And besides, any reasonably intelligent thief probably knows those types of lockers contain bikes just by looking at them. So a massive, windowless shed that gives no clue to its contents (while still looking reasonably pleasant and ordinary) was the best option.

Naturally, I picked the most secure ground anchors and the strongest chains I could find. The only problem is they aren’t compatible – the links of boron steel Protector Chains are too wide to fit through the hole of Mammoth anchors. I thought I would have to switch to a smaller, weaker chain until David at Security For Bikes provided a solution in the form of a brilliant little device called an Anti-Pinch Pin, which is basically a giant steel rivet that has a thinner section near its tip. You put the pin through both ends of the chain with the anchor hole sandwiched in the middle, then clamp a Squire high-security padlock snugly over over the thin part of the pin to lock the chain in place.

anti-pinch pin and protector chain on ground anchor

David was immensely helpful, looking at a photo I sent him of our shed and helping me work out a solution through a series of emails after I had bought two Protector Chains from him and discovered they didn’t fit. I can’t recommend them highly enough, so check out their website if you’re thinking of upgrading the security for your bicycles.

Lifestyle doping and the rise of the no-fessional

August 19, 2015

Here’s a true story. An accomplished amateur cyclist went round to a similarly high-achieving rider’s home for dinner. During the course of the evening, the guest confided to the host that work and family life had got in the way of bike racing. The host was unimpressed as they too had children and other responsibilities yet still found time to train and race. “Isn’t that right?” the host said, turning to their spouse for support.

Mentally noting that the accomplished amateur cyclist was aided by a personal trainer, a nutritionist, support for their family and ultra high-end kit, not to mention a complete lack of paid work, the long-suffering spouse coolly responded with the admirably Salteresque aversion: “Up to a point, dear.”

This anecdote, which I stumbled across a couple of years ago, popped into my head when I saw the Daily Telegraph’s John Critchlow provide a breakdown of the eye-popping £25,000 he had spent to compete in top-level amateur races. It was the first in a planned series of missives which will detail his racing progress, and I suppose it’s in the nature of these sorts of serial blog posts to inspire others who would like to take up a similar challenge (although I can’t seem to find any follow-up posts in the intervening four months). In any case, more knowledgeable people than myself have done a good job of ridiculing the idea it is necessary to spend the equivalent of the average UK salary just to ride the Surrey League and other events that no normal person gives a flying toss about, so I’m not going to throw another log onto that particular bonfire of hilarities. What interests me is how Critchlow, like the nameless dinner party host I’ve mentioned, seems unable to acknowledge a simple truth: that in the pursuit of sporting excellence, emptying your wallet and your schedule may give you an unfair advantage.

This isn’t about harvesting results. The High-Achieving Dinner Party Host has a considerable list of wins to their name, whereas a comment on Critchlow’s post points out he had yet to score a single BCF point this season. The advantage I’m talking about is psychological. Would the dinner party guest be quite as demotivated if they too had a paid backup crew? And be honest: aren’t there bleak moments when you wished you had the pro-level of support that the Telegraph’s Mr Mid-Life Crisis has afforded himself?

I’d call this sort of thing lifestyle doping – injecting litres of dosh and keeping a secret stash of expendable time, both of which enable you to be competitive at a high level. In truth, a form of lifestyle doping was around when I started riding semi-seriously around a dozen years ago. I remember my amused clubmate Chris Chapman telling me after a chipper race that our Dynamo chum Sam Humpheson had “won the race for people with jobs” by taking the bunch sprint after a break had already crossed the line, led by a particularly unloved crit racer who did practically nothing else at the time except train and race. It was a few years later that we entered into The Era Of The Golden Parachute, a period immediately after the global financial crisis which saw some high-earners of my acquaintance suddenly finding themselves with no paid employment, bags of cash from a redundancy settlement and even bigger bags of free time, which they filled up by punishing themselves on a bicycle for months on end. Then another job would come along, and living the pro dream came to an abrupt halt.

These Golden Parachutists, or at least the ones I knew, quietly went about getting into the form of their lives without drawing too much attention to themselves. But now lifestyle doping has bred an altogether less modest cyclist: the No-fessional, the sort of rider who will never have a professional contract but behaves a bit like they do. Like a professional cyclist, the no-fessional revels in the attention and admiration that comes with a life spent in the saddle, which in their case is attained by blogging and tweeting about every ruddy mile they ride. But unlike professional cyclists, the riding no-fessionals do isn’t exactly racing, even though they like to give the impression it is. I know of one no-fessional who boasted of completing a Grand Tour when it was actually just the route they were riding (and – whisper it quietly – they didn’t complete all the stages). Another no-fessional, my chum Chris Ward, recently qualified for a glorified sportive called the UCI Vets World Championship Road Race where every rider is lifestyle doped up to the eyeballs – which, as another friend who took part in a previous edition noted, consequently means the quality of the field isn’t the highest that it could be. There are probably faster guys on your club run.

I should pause here to say I am not knocking Chris (or, indeed, anyone else I’ve mentioned) for becoming fitter, faster and healthier. But Chris’s aim was to prove that it’s possible to work more than 40 hours a week and still conquer an extraordinary challenge, to which I would say: up to a point, dear. One of the reasons he’s able to train when he wants is because he has a number of factotums who are willing to work antisocial hours to get his projects completed on time. And I would know, because I was one of them.

Which brings us back to that dinner party and Critchlow’s blogging for the Telegraph. Because that’s the common theme of the high-profile lifestyle doper: tell your audience you can do what I do while glossing over the advantage they have over the schmucks. To quote the great American philosopher S. Twain, that don’t impress me much. Riding with riders who are wiser or fitter than you and learning from them will help you reach your goals. Listening to hollow bragging probably won’t.