Coffee, Beer, Cycling and Rules

I’m a food snob.  For me, eating is one of life’s great pleasures, so it’s really important that what I eat and drink tastes fantastic.  When it comes to coffee I was well into my 20s before I started getting into it.  I didn’t like coffee much and and rarely drank it.  At the time I had a french girlfriend and she was horrified by my lack of interest in coffee, but it didn’t take her long to diagnose the problem.  She reckoned it was impossible not to like coffee, the problem was that I was drinking dire instant, so she whisked me off to Paris to drink some coffee worthy of the name.  She was right of course; it turns out I love great coffee and hate bad coffee which fits perfectly with my food snobbery.  For years this was all fine.  I love coffee.  I love cycling.  It was all good.

Fast forward quite a few years and I’m into mountain biking, mainly because I was sick of the traffic and wanted new places to ride.  It wasn’t long before I got myself a singlespeed mountain bike.  I ride a fixed on the road a lot and they deal better than geared bikes in the muddy grimness of an English winter so it made sense for me.  That was all good until I started to become aware of singlespeed culture at around the time I rode the European Singlespeed Championships. It turned out that I was required to drink lots of beer, ride really slowly and sit around a lot.  I was not allowed to wear lycra.  Tattoos and extravagent facial hair were encouraged.  I have nothing against any of those things and even enjoy some of them, but the whole thing was really annoying.  I hate being told what to do, especially when I’m not being paid.  So I’d deliberately turn up wearing lycra, ride too fast and deny liking beer.  Childish I know but I couldn’t help myself.


Fast forward even more years and road cycling culture had moved on.  A lot of it I really liked, more people were riding and it blew a lot of the cobwebs out of the sport.  But something was wrong.  I was now required to be a coffee snob.  My collection of espresso machines, fancy burr grinders and encylopedic knowledge of obscure coffee roasters was no longer some eccentric thing I did, it made me a pedalling cliché.  My instagram followers are nearly all cyclists but you’d think they’re baristas looking at my feed.  I shouldn’t let it bother me.  I still love riding my bike and I still love a decent espresso but somehow I am a bit annoyed.  I want cycling to be about cycling and coffee to be about coffee.  I don’t want them jumbled up together and I don’t want to look like a fashion victim every time I ride to a café.

Cycling has always had a strong culture and the cycling club I joined as a teenager made sure I knew all about it from the off.  All the lads in the club raced and we’d obsess endlessly about insane details of our bikes and what we wore.  I remember having a really heated argument about how much we should saw off the ends of our Cinelli handlebars.  I went for an inch.  Get that wrong and your life was hell, but an inch was OK.  My first road bike had large flange hubs which was an horrendous faux-pas so I had to start saving hard for new wheels.  All of this was fine because I felt a part of it.  It was my culture and the rules were all about cycling.   Now the internet is a thing, all this has been written down, the best example being Frank Strack’s The Rules.  His rules mostly sum up cycling culture, but some of them only apply to Americans, some only apply to the specific time he wrote them down and some are just wrong.  All that would be fine if he just stuck to cycling.  Mostly he does but he can’t resist telling us when and how we should drink beer and coffee.  But the worst part of it is that I share his taste in both beer and coffee so now, what I’ve been happily doing for years makes me a fashion victim.  Cheers Frank.

Me at the 2003 European Singlespeed Championships. Not drinking beer.


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