Riding a bicycle – do the risks outweigh the rewards?
Until recently, cycling was considered to have certain health benefits. Images of people, crouched over their handlebars, jaws thrust forward in a determined manner and legs pumping away at the pedals gave the impression that it’s all a jolly good day’s fun in the sun.
However, we at the Institute warn that one faces serious health risks when taking up the sport. Admittedly, it increases lung capacity, improves blood circulation, has a marginally positive effect on one’s general fitness and all that stuff, but the downsides are arguably a whole lot worse.
With the Port Elizabeth Ironman competition taking place in a few hours, I thought this topic would help normal people avoid being swept up in the hype surrounding this dangerous pastime by listing a few of the pitfalls to which you might fall victim.
Among other disturbing consequences, our scientists have conclusively proven that cycling:
- Distorts perceptual abilities and spatial awareness.This causes the sufferer to think he and his bicycle require the same amount of space on the road as say, an articulated 18 wheeler or a South African politician in his new BMW X6 SUV.
- Can give one a fatal sense of invincibility. Thought to be as a result of oxygen deprivation, the rider acts in utter disregard to that law which prohibits cyclists from riding abreast on narrow roads, and when the drivers in the tailback hoot out of frustration, the cyclist arrogantly makes rude hand gestures as if his Sunday afternoon ride has been spoiled by a thoughtless driver.
- Negatively affects ones sense of fiscal prudence. Ignoring for a moment professional cyclists and sponsored teams; who in their right mind spends over R60 000 on a device that not only causes endless pain and suffering, but makes you look like a complete pillock into the bargain?
- Plays havoc with the neural pathways between the optic nerve and that part of the brain which deals with dress-sense. The jury is out on this point, because similar sufferers can be found on golf courses and red carpets scattered about the entertainment industry. However, when it comes to cycling, it is the opinion of this writer that the inventor of Spandex has a lot to answer for.
You know you’ve encountered a coven of cyclists if, by surreptitiously lifting the hem of their skirts or dresses, you find a shaved leg or two. Be careful, however, because your action may not be received with tolerance – even less so from the lady cyclists.
Cyclists apparently also hang around in peletons– literally translated from the French, meaning “small balls”; so it appears the French don’t like them either.
On a Sunday morning, at least one eatery in any suburban shopping complex will be inundated with cyclists. Many, many bicycles will be leaning up against walls, annoyingly disrupting walkways; but considerably increasing the value of the property. Men and women congregate in cliques to quaff fashionable energy drinks, eat brunch and/or talk about tyres, chains and frames. Fashion-wise (although that’s a bit of an oxymoron right there), everyone looks like they’ve just completed the Tour de France – even if they’ve just ridden from the adjacent housing complex. Almost everyone will be in their alien-shaped helmets, fingerless gloves, the ubiquitous sunglasses and brightly coloured spandex, on which they’ve spent colossal amounts of hard earned cash for the privilege of advertising for the companies associated with the sport and who saw them coming in the first place.
The cycling pants. Now there’s a subject for several theses (psychological, sporting, fashion – you name it). One look at the knife-edge that passes for a bicycle saddle these days, and you will be forgiven for thinking that cyclists have issues other than fitness. Yours truly is the first to admit that he’s not a devotee of pain-inflicting pastimes, but I once spent about 10 minutes (and half a kilometre) riding one of these contraptions. I dismounted, cross-eyed and yodelling with agony and had to walk like John Wayne for an hour or two while those sensitive gentleman’s parts moved south again from the throat region towards their original location.
Instead of changing the saddle design (the logical solution, one would have thought) to alleviate the pain, the cyclist chooses a pair of pants that contains a large (and probably uncomfortable) strip of sponge. This still causes cyclists to walk like John Wayne and, I’m sure, disappoints many ladies on subsequent dates with their cycling boyfriends.
So, if you’re invited by so-called friends to join their cycling ring, or assailed by the desire to buy a bicycle – just say no. Your outfits will be less garish and you’ll be far safer.