I’ve always been a firm believer that, if a man can do it, so can a woman – and a woman can probably do it better. Men might have the physical advantage in most cases (unless of course you’re Jodie Marsh ‘the bodybuilder’), but women are more organised, efficient, and generally just have better common sense.
The problem, however, is that no matter how much I promote gender equality (or female superiority), I can’t get around the nauseous feeling that overcomes me when I think about the prospect of donning Lycra, fixing my feet into pedals and hitting the roads on, of all think, a bike.
I want to join the growing breed of men (and some women, granted) around the UK for whom cycling is now the most fashionable means of exercise – I just can’t. These are the men who have been inspired by the likes of Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and Sir Chris Hoy’s thighs to ditch their trainers in favour of gears and tyres in a bid to get fit and shed the pounds.
Cycling is certainly not a ‘new’ thing – heck, the two-wheeled mode of transport was invented back in 1817 – but thanks to the invention of carbon fibre, Shimano gears and sweat-wicking, ultra-streamlining, second-skin-esque fabrics, it’s suddenly become something people can really get their teeth (and their wallet) into. Environmentalists and promoters of sustainable transport, in an age when such issues are more pertinent than ever, have also helped to revolutionise the reputation of cycling by tapping into the ‘green’ consumer conscience. After all, peddling to work on two wheels is good for you and the environment; your four wheels not so much.
As a woman, however, I just can’t let my trainers go. There’s nothing more satisfying than going out for a run around a lake or through a peaceful park on a Sunday morning, sweating in places no Downton lady would ever have allowed themselves to sweat, pushing myself that extra half a mile or shaving those few seconds off my PB. It’s by no means glamorous – but give me this over saddle soreness any day of the week.
Men, conversely, seem to like the element of danger that comes with cycling on Britain’s roads. What puts the fear of God into me (i.e. incompetent drivers) seems to only spur men on. I’m all for thrills, danger and taking risks – just not in a lorry’s blind spot or with mums on the school run squeezing past in their BMW X5s.
Men also seem to really likes hills. Whilst my lake has to be calm, idyllic and, above all, flat, many men intentionally seek out the longest, steepest hill they can in order to be able to tell their other friends-in-Lycra that they’ve defeated it as though it were Ali taking on Liston.
Life on two wheels might get you thighs to rival Beyoncé’s, but, for now at least, I’ll stick to my weekend runs. Running is more relaxing (you can’t tell me that cycling through London on a Monday morning is good for your Zen), far cheaper, and, if you want to, it’s easier to make running a sociable experience. Besides, I don’t want to turn up to work with helmet hair now, do I?