The Road Cyclist's CompanionWearing the correct kit, easing through the paceline, sock length, cap ‘luft’: there is much to learn and little time to learn it. Peter Drinkell’s book tackles the important stuff we old-timers take for granted.
IC: Congratulations on the book. A terrific idea, beautifully designed. How did you come up with the premise?
PD: I did another book a little while ago, The Bike-Owner's Handbook, which was the basic rudiments of bike maintenance: chain care, how to mend a puncture, things like that.
I have some friends, older people, just getting into cycling, and one of them said they would be really embarrassed if they got a puncture; they wouldn’t know what to do, as the last time they had fixed one they were probably 12 years old. It just made me laugh. It’s one of those things you take for granted, don’t even think about. That was what sparked the first one.
Then I had the idea for this one to follow on. And Ziggy (at Cicada) has done a great job with design – it looks fabulous.
It tackles all of those things that we do on the bike that are second nature. If you think about it, why should someone new to the sport know that a left-hand pedal has a left-hand thread?
Absolutely. The Velominati book, The Rules, is a bit more prescriptive, in that it says things have to be a certain way.
Your book is still nicely opinionated, though, I thought. One of my favourites: “Do not even consider sleeveless jerseys. These are the domain of triathletes and that still doesn’t make them right.” It needed to be said, didn’t it?
The sock issue makes me laugh as well.
I made a note of that, too: that you were actually fairly agnostic on the ‘white is right’ sock ruling.
It doesn’t really matter. Things just have to match, don’t they? At the end of the day, you can turn up in whatever you want, but there is a reason why you wear these things. You don’t wear bibshorts because they look great.
Have you ever worn white shorts?
I never have, actually. Never tried that one.
My team decided one year that it was a look we could carry off. I got one hundred yards from my front door before a woman leant out of her car window and shouted: “Hey, mate, you forgot your trousers!” I headed back home and took them off, never to be worn again.
My wife said that I had to put something in the book about white shorts – I hadn’t even mentioned it. It is not good. She mentioned a guy on the train with his bike. A bit of dirt, a bit of water, and you don’t know where to look. It’s embarrassing all round. Not good.
Was there a sense of frustration when out with newer riders that gave you an idea of what points you needed to make in the book?
Very much so, absolutely. Obviously, I had that when I first started, especially when you are doing through and off, and you go surging off the front. People are yelling at you, “Woah!”
I have been doing a lot of trips lately with Mark from GPM10, and his guys are the prime audience. They are late-30s, early-40s, new to it – fit, but get them in a group and it’s carnage. We tried to do a little through and off session, and one guy just tore the front and ended up in another group altogether…
People get very competitive: that whole half-wheeling aspect. You just have to say “Pull back, hang back”, you know? And riding three or four abreast, especially on small lanes, is terrifying. It really annoys me. They don’t see it, don’t understand.
A lot of the ideas book came from those experiences really. And then there’s the little faux pas with the kit. That sort of stuff.
POC sent me an orange helmet. Now, I am working down my kit from there. It matches nothing; clashes with my red frame. It’s a nightmare, but it has got to be done.
Exactly. They are the little nuances that must be adhered to. I was out in Australia over Christmas, and they are mad for all that, like in the States. It’s the New World. They take it all on board.
The other bit of advice I picked out that resonated with me was about changing gear in good time – it sounds so logical yet so many people get it so wrong.
It’s one of those things that comes with experience, isn’t it? Changing under load, dropping chains because of poor decisions.
And where do you stand on ‘luft’?
Ah, luft… Where do you stop? I bumped into a guy in Melbourne, who heads up the St Kilda Cycling Club, and he wrote a thing about working out the luft of your cap: something like the length of your stem, divided by the length of your socks – some weird equation. It was genius.
I think some people have got the right shaped heads and the right shaped faces. Guy, the editor, can just stick a cap on his head and it immediately looks the business, yet I do it and end up resembling Norman Wisdom.
I love a cap, that’s the thing. My brother-in-law is like that. The real deal. He just puts a cap on and looks brilliant. You think: ‘Oh, you bastard!’
Short hair, a broader face, and it helps if your ears don’t stick out. There’s not a lot you can do about the angle of your ears, is there?
The Road Cyclist’s Companion by Peter Drinkell, published by Cicada, is available from mid-June.