James May, Cycling, Depression

James May in a move which amazes people who believe in marketing has appeared in some pro-cycling articles this week. Those who have seen his other programs have felt no such surprise that this man likes mechanical velocipedes.

James May on a bicycle
The most Brompton picture on the interwebs

Most cyclists are just people riding bikes. And they’re a bit hopeless.” This I can agree with. I used to do work as a bike fitter, possibly one of the most first world jobs you can have, as I was doing this role I started to believe my owned puffed up superiority on everything pedal stroke related. I could never go a ride without having to criticize someone’s body position, how they were in the wrong gear… This affected my ability to go out and ride, as to get anywhere from a city center flat I would undoubtably see other cyclists unaware they were killing their own body.

I have learned to calm down a bit about it now but still, the amount of people who could do with a little guidance on saddle height would make me happy person. It was almost a daily battle in the shop telling people to raise their saddle just a little (read a lot). The most common response was “I’m not racing/ a professional”. That is fine but you are riding 100miles every week and your knees do not know you are not a professional. Eventually, you could cajole them to ride around the block with a higher seat, the amount that came back in and went “Oh, my knees don’t hurt now.” You now do not want to get me started on cleat position, if you are clipped in you most likely have your cleats in the wrong place. Also do not angle your saddle up, ever, there is no reason for it except to give yourself issues.

Cycling should not have to be painful. There are a billion guides online about setting your bike up and most of the bike magazines will have a guide hidden on their site somewhere. Just make sure you check that it is a professional guide you are looking at. Otherwise most bike shops, if you pop in on a weekday morning, will have someone willing to help give you guidance, remember no one wants to make you look like professional racer (as that position will hurt) but will want you to be comfortable and happy on a bike, this is mainly because if you enjoy cycling you are more likely to buy more stuff from them in the future.You will also suddenly be a little bit faster and those hills will become a little bit easier. This is I believe known as a win/win situation, if the shop does not want to help you, you also do not want to spend money with them so move on and find a better shop.

He is wrong about gears, though, you only need one.

God hates single speed bicycles
I’m going to hell

His comments about dual pivot brakes may though be a return to the Topgear/Grand Tour controversy basis. Suggesting that a dual pivot brake might be a work of art, everyone knows that only applies to disc brakes, everyone needs disc brakes, is he a Luddite? I may also have fallen into the evangelical disc brake argument at one time but the one thing I am certain of is that disc brakes are better than canti brakes but then a shoe on the tire is better than a canti brake.

Cyclocross bike crash
It would not have happened had he had disc brakes

I do also, funnily enough, agree with his point that our roads should be shared and enjoyed by everyone. Modern roads “are a model for a successful, tolerant and liberal society”, for Mr. May. Our potholed riddled mess of a UK road network is possibly why we have an inept government and a society that is fragmented about the dangers of them there foreigners. I am also therefore guessing that US road network is also a mess.

At least today I have actually managed to agree with someone today.

On a more serious note in the cycle racing front we have recently had the retirement of Lieuwe Westra because of depression and the recent statement on his health by José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios. Gutierrez having been hospitalized by his condition 11 times. This is something we need to look at in cycling, how mental health is perceived and helped. The comments on the news of these articles shows that the majority of the public emphasize with these men and more should be done to perhaps ease ex-athletes back into society.

Reading the article on Gutierrez you get the feeling that his old manager, Eusebio Unzué, does not get human compassion and feels that although Gutierrez was reaching out that he does not have to help him. Surely it would not have been hard to have invited him to the team launch or even sent a small message of support to him? It may be a bad translation from Spanish to English but I worry about the care of people under such a person.

There is a lot to be said on depression and I feel Emma Vickers talks about it and athletes better than I could ever hope to do in BelievePerform.







2 thoughts on “James May, Cycling, Depression

  1. Hopefully these cyclists can climb out of depression. Also think there’s something much deeper than their cycling competence which has a formed a large chunk of their identity.


    1. Yes, I think depression does come from a lot of the societal images and ideas we see all around us now. The constant barrage of adverts and ideas, I think this can also lead to many problems.
      I personally use my cycling as a way to get away from all that but I am then under no pressure to perform.


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