Whilst out riding in Mallorca recently (and yes, I’m currently wracking my brains as to how I can possibly get away with setting up a permanent early season home out there) I was struck, as I expected to be, by just how cyclist friendly the island is; great climbs, smooth tarmac, sunshine, bike hire, and the general impression that cyclists have just about ousted car drivers as the dominant species.
The contrast with the UK couldn’t be greater, where the powers that be seem to think that painting the roads constitutes a cycling infrastructure.
I was taken aback by the great long stretches of main road which were accompanied by cycle lanes on each side that were smooth, wide, and accessible, and separated from the traffic by a raised strip of pavement. I was so taken aback, in fact, that on my first ride out my attempt to negotiate a roundabout confused me, so that I took the road exit rather than the cycle lane exit.
(A cycle lane exit…on a roundabout, for goodness sake. These people know what they’re doing.)
As I barrelled along the road looking for a route across to the cycle lane I spotted a young Spanish boy – maybe 14 or 15 – pedalling along parallel to me, on a black racing bike at least four sizes too big for him. As I gained on him he saw me approach over his left shoulder, and to his credit he threw down the gauntlet.
Reaching for the drop handlebars of his oversized machine he upped his game and attacked!
I cruised 10 yards back from him and he flicked occasional glances in my direction, a look of steel in his eyes as he gloriously gave the Englishman a run for his money – it was the first day of my holiday, and so even from ten yards and engaged in a two-wheeled fight to the death, he couldn’t have failed to notice the lobster-red sunburn which gave away my nationality.
He was bunny-hopping grids, swerving parked cars, and bent across the bike in effort, and if he was anything like me as a 14 or 15 year old he’d have the roar of the crowd and the excited patter of the commentary team in his ears too.
Considering his tender years and cumbersome bike he put up a good fight, but after four or five minutes I could see him flagging and weaving and so I respectfully accelerated up to him, looked across, and gave him the thumbs up and an impressed nod to say, “well done lad”.
He beamed back, delighted, before I swung right at a set of traffic lights and left him to it.
I have to say, compared to one or two of the preening wannabe cyclists I encountered out there, this lad was the real deal!