December 20, 2011

In Defence of the Smug Cyclist

Cyclists have recently been the subject of accusations in the media of being smug, not only in being generally irritatingly pleased with themselves, but also to the extent that their smugness has been blamed for bad behaviour towards cyclists by motorists.  Is inoffensive smugness really such a bad thing?
Following the rise in the accessibility and popularity of the motor car and subsequent decline of cycling in the 1970’s, it was hard to think of cyclists as being smug.  Bikes for the populous lacked the rugged reliability and simplicity of the post war era.  Hub geared roadsters on which you could ride comfortably in your “Sunday Best” gave way to pale imitations of continental racing machines.  Trouser legs engaged in constant battle with exposed chains, torturous saddles threatened to stem the nation’s reproductive tide, the trusted Sturmey Archer hub gear fell victim to the cheap French Huret wheel jamming dérailleur.
So how on earth have cyclists suddenly found themselves accused of smugness?  The current renaissance in cycling is attributable to many easily recognisable factors, not least the cost and frustration of modern motoring and this is where the problem and the contradiction would appear to lie.  Compare for instance the likely reaction of most motorway drivers on being overtaken by a speeding Ferrari;
“Wowww did you see that!?” 
Whereas that to a cyclist who happily filters past a mile of stationary traffic, is more likely to be;
“That prat nearly had my wing mirror off!” 
Of course the cyclist is justifiably pleased with them self; they are getting to where they need to be in a healthy, non-polluting and efficient manner and on a modern bike that actually works as a practical form of transport. If there’s no better word than smug to describe us, then let’s just embrace it!

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