Selfies from the summit

Many years ago, I used to sit at my desk at work during the long summer months, blissfully unaware of all the bike related fun my friends might be up to. Well, ok, not quite blissfully…but unaware…you get the idea.

I would peer out at the sunshine past e-mails and spreadsheets, bemoaning the fact that any hair-brained schemes which might result in me riding my bike in the sunshine for a living were clearly a long way off. It was enough to know that various cycling companions of mine were out there somewhere, drinking in the life affirming joy of a ride up a big French col or down some long sweeping Pyrenean valley, without them getting in touch through the wonder of modern technology to remind me of it.

I didn’t begrudge them (perish the thought), but I was certainly jealous (obviously), and I didn’t really need to know the details, in real time, climb by climb, café by café.

That sort of thing doesn’t help me get through a long day in the office.

Mont Ventoux - wish you were here (Photo: James Whitesmith Flickr CC)
Mont Ventoux – wish you were here
(Photo: James Whitesmith Flickr CC)

There was a time not that long ago when it felt like a genuine achievement to have sent a holiday postcard, and return home to find that it had reached the UK before you did (it was a simpler time). Here in 2014 many of us have more computer processing power in the palm of our hands than was used to put a man on the moon, and the thought of sticking a stamp onto a postcard and putting it into a letterbox seems like a very strange way of doing things.

First of all mobile phones came along, and as much for the novelty of being able to send a few lines of text across the continent as any great one-upmanship, we started to send the odd mid-ride text message to each other, passing on some vital piece of information about our latest two-wheeled exploits.

So, cooped up in an office somewhere in the north of England, I would get:

‘Alright lad, we’ve just ridden up Mont Ventoux’
Fair enough, it’s a great ride and well worth shouting from the rooftops.

‘Now sitting in a café in Carpentras’
Erm, ok, bit less interesting but thanks anyway chaps.

‘Dave fell off on the way down and flew headfirst straight into a bush, you should have seen his face…!’
Yes, absolutely! Now I need to see a photo.

And so it came to pass.

Passo dello Stelvio - beats working for a living? (Photo: xuuxuu via
Passo dello Stelvio – beats working for a living?
(Photo: xuuxuu via

Now, barely a summer day goes by without some photo winging its way across to me from half way up Alpe d’Huez, or a selfie from the summit of the Stelvio, or instant visual evidence that Eddy Merckx has just been spotted doing his shopping in a non-descript Belgian town. All the while I sit at my desk, productivity levels dropping at the thought of every ride I’m missing, wondering what I might have said to Eddy Merckx (something really witty, probably, or insightful).

Don’t get me wrong; I’m an early adopter of most new technology, and I’m certainly not pining, like some kind of luddite, for the days when phone calls were made in phone boxes using handfuls of coins, and photo’s were taken on film and resulted in a few blurred images several weeks later, but all this sharing of experiences does have a downside. Not only do you get the feeling that life is happening somewhere else without you…

…but you end up with a phone full of someone else’s holiday snaps!



  1. […] I’ve written before about my mild irritation on receiving an inbox full of cycling selfies every summer – irritation based largely on the fact that I’m sitting at my desk engaging in a fight to the death with an Excel spreadsheet, while my cycling buddies are out enjoying themselves – but whether I like it or not, the fact is that the image conscious cyclists among us have embraced the modern obsession with recording the world by camera phone, to the point that every ride is a potential photo-shoot. […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s