Here’s the one thing about living in Cape Town: you have to wear sunglasses when you step outside or your eyes will melt with the sheer loveliness of it all. Unless, of course, you live on the Flats. And even then you still have to wear sunglasses to avoid being recognised by gangsters or cops to whom you may owe money or favours.
The other thing is that almost everyone is obsessed with walking, hiking, running or cycling. Every weekend there is some or other race going on. Entire suburbs are cut off so that thousands of gasping, sweating lunatics can test themselves for reasons which make no sense.
Right now, people with outrageously expensive bicycles and bad attitudes are girding their loins for the Cape Town Cycle Tour in 10 day’s time. Being cyclists, they’re not happy claiming the roads for themselves just for one day. They have something called a Lifecycle Week – “an eight-day celebration of all things cycling”. A lot of middle fingers can be flashed between motorists and cyclists in eight days.
Bicycles are for children and circus monkeys. Even if I mentally regressed to the age of nine, I still wouldn’t get one. Far less would I mount a sliver of a saddle and peddle for 109km with thousands of pointy-headed freaks in crotch-hugging Lycra and corrective shoes. I can’t even drive my car for 109km without falling asleep or stopping for beer.
The only time I might consider taking up cycling is if I fall on desperately hard times and am forced to sell my car. This might happen sooner than I think.
Right. I’m glad that’s out of the way. I wouldn’t want serious cyclists getting halfway through this column thinking, “It’s this kind of idiot that gives cycling a bad name.” Come to think of it, I am precisely that kind of idiot. And I can do it without going anywhere near a bike. In fact, I’m doing it right now from behind my computer with a beer at my elbow. If I open my window, I can shout, “Faster, you lazy bastard!” at every cyclist who comes heaving into view.
I have to make sure my gate is locked, though. Cyclists are renowned for their over-sensitivity. Many a motorist has been grateful for a gap in the traffic opening up as an outraged peloton bears down on him after he had the sheer bloody effrontery to overtake while they were riding nine abreast and chatting among themselves.
As all serious sports writers do when faced with a subject requiring in-depth research, I called up Google and punched in “cycling”. There were 844 million results. This was astonishing, especially when one considers that “sex with your wife” turns up fewer results. Okay, perhaps it’s not all that astonishing. At this time of year, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of men pay more attention to their bicycles than to their wives. In Cape Town, anyway.
The first website I encountered was an enormous help. It said, “Cycling is an activity most commonly performed on a bicycle.” This is like pointing out, “Walking is an activity most commonly performed on the legs.” Is this aimed at aliens who might wish to access the internet to find out more about our species? “I know what cycling is!” I shouted, giving my computer a swift backhand. It was more cooperative after that and it wasn’t long before it coughed up a fact that I could use.
Did you know that bicycles were introduced in the 19th century and now number about one billion worldwide? What I find even more alarming is that the Chinese were introduced in the Neolithic era and currently number about 1.4 billion. This means that bicycles are multiplying faster than the Chinese. You don’t have to be a genius to conclude that the threat of world domination comes from bicycles and not, as previously thought, the Chinese. The biggest danger to the planet is obviously bicycle-riding Chinese.
The first bicycle was invented by a Frenchman, an Englishman, a Scotsman or an American – depending on who you ask. One of the earliest prototypes was called a velocipede. It was designed by a German and had a wooden frame, square wheels and no handlebars or pedals. It looked like a cross between a velociraptor and a centipede. Perhaps I’m thinking of the inventor.
The Penny Farthing was an improvement, if you can call anything designed by an escaped mental patient an improvement. Okay, I’m bored with that bit, now.
Let us rather look at the development of the riders themselves. Early competitive cyclists were covered in hair and had long, curved incisors which they would use to bite one another while bunched together at the start. In that respect, not much has changed.
The evolution of cyclists from wild-eyed Neanderthals to red-eyed substance abusers coincided with the evolution of performance-enhancing drugs. In the 1800s, the most popular drugs were morphine and cocaine. This meant that many entrants in earlier events, such as the Bordeaux-Paris race, carried on past the finish line and eventually had to be brought down by police snipers waiting at the Italian border.
Today, cyclists no longer feel guilty when it comes to stuffing their faces with any number of dodgy drugs. Alcohol remains a firm favourite, although the jury is still passed out regarding its performance-enhancing qualities. Marijuana, South Africa’s most popular cash crop, is similarly regarded as more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to crossing the finish line. Some riders have been known to take up to three days to complete a race after stopping for a joint in Fish Hoek. They tend to get distracted by the penguins in Simon’s Town.
Hopefully nobody will be dragged into the bushes and asked to wee into a cup after this year’s big race. This is not a police state like Australia and I urge officials to have the good grace to turn a blind eye or, at the very least, accept a bribe.
I don’t wish to sound arrogant, but people should know that if I did decide to enter this year’s race, I would almost certainly win it. Years of sticking to a strict diet of barley, hops and water, supplemented with a steady intake of recreational substances and anabolic steroids, has turned me into a fine figure of an athlete. I have developed legs of steel and a bum tighter than a Senegalese talking drum. I have also developed a 32A chest. The training bra has taken a bit of getting used to, as have the withered testicles, hair loss and impotence, but none of this would slow me down in the slightest.
I believe a fair amount of cash goes to whoever crosses the line first. That’s settled, then. There are loads of retired cyclists living in the elite suburb of Masiphumelele who would happily sell me a top-of-the-range racing bike for under R200.
If you’re going to be in Cape Town, don’t get in my way. I have two middle fingers and I’m not afraid to use them.
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