24 Aug, 2015

Riding the Tour

I vaguely remember riding my Raleigh bicycle to primary school when I was in standard four and five.

My bike was a rather heavy, three-speed affair with the gearbox encased in the rear wheel's hub.

But I remember having a fair bit of fun on that old “hunk of iron”, including effectively breaking the 60 kilometre per hour speed limit on one of the steeper hills in the ‘burb where we lived at the time. And I know I broke the speed limit as a traffic cop tried to stop me as I “click-clacked” over his wires stretched across the road.

After that, a number of decades went by and I didn’t even know anyone with a bicycle.

Then, in 2010, the cycling bug hit in a big way. Or perhaps I should say, the mountain bike bug hit in a big way. Not only were most of my friends ripping up the trails just about every weekend, but I actually bought my first bike in years.

After finishing my first trial, I told everyone that “I think I’ve found a new sport,” with a mud-covered smile on my face.

From then on, I considered myself a mountain biker. I wasn’t a racing snake by any means, and for quite a while I didn’t even enter any events or races, but I was firmly entrenched in the whole fever and frenzy of what is definitely South Africa’s fastest growing sport.

But I scoffed at road cycling, telling people who would listen that it was “too expensive” or “too dangerous” or even “why would I want to buy a bike just for the road anyway? My mountain bike can ride on the road”.

However, and in secret, an admiration for road cycling was brewing in me.

I secretly stole glances at the latest road bikes displayed at my local bike shop and then, the 2012 Tour de France more-or-less won me over. It was the year that we all watched Chris Froome help Sir Bradley Wiggens win cycling’s most coveted prize.

I was hooked. I learnt a lot, thanks to Phil Liggett’s amazing commentary, and I found out important things, like that cycling is actually a team sport and that there are all sorts of rules governing aspects like taking on food and bike weights and stuff.

The next year, 2013, was the year of victory for us. Daryl Impey wore the yellow jersey and “our” Chris Froome went on to win the Tour.

And then 2014 happened. I had just been appointed the editor of Modern Cyclist so I felt I was expected to watch the Tour de France. Although I could only really watch the highlights package after work, I kept up with the ding-dong battle between Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Chris and saw how the Italian dominated most of the stages and secured the yellow jersey and the win.

At the beginning of 2015 I did it. I actually bought a road bike.

It is pretty much a basic, good quality, value for money machine but it is definitely a road bike and it’s definitely much easier to ride on the road than any mountain bike will ever be.

And now, on the dawn of the 2015 Tour de France and as I get ready to watch cycling’s greatest spectacle in its entirety for the fourth time in succession, I can’t help but to think that this great event has somehow moulded me as a cyclist and a person.

Or perhaps I’m still that crazy kid who broke the speed limit on his three-speed bike.

Viva le Tour de France!
Raymond Travers

Raymond Travers

Modern Cyclist Editor |