Sheep, as any cyclist will tell you, are enigmatic creatures.
They often appear docile and unmoved by the world around them, barely looking up from the clump of grass they’re munching on as you freewheel past.
Other times they veer, skitter, and weave across the road, their tiny hooves (is that right…hooves?!) clattering on the Tarmac as they risk their life and your limb.
The particularly self-confident ones look up, stock still, and fix you with a stare of such utter disdain as to resemble a London cabbie who’s desire to make a left turn has just been delayed by three tenths of a second.
It‘s easy to assume that there’s very little activity in their tiny brain. That they’re simply double checking that you have no interest in eating, milking, or shearing them, before they get on with their day.
I think there’s more to it.
I’m fairly sure they’ve been monitoring current trends in cycling kit and have noticed that cyclists have a bit of a thing about merino wool. And they’re slightly offended that we have no interest in their (non-merino) wool?
We treat their la-di-da merino cousins like royalty, complimenting them on their moisture management and odour free comfort. Meanwhile, with our local sheep we make rugs, and jumpers for Hebridean fishermen.
Thus far there’s no sign that Rapha’s new range will be embracing the rough hardwearing qualities of a Herdwick sheep, or the fine weave of the Norfolk Horn.
They’ve had enough.
They’ve heard about the big money we spend on base layers and three-season jerseys. They know about the huge profits the kit manufacturers funnel in the direction of the shareholders (although, being sheep, they don’t quite grasp the nuances of late-stage capitalism).
Those skittering, panicky sheep that leap into the road and leave you grasping for your brake levers are the foot-soldiers. These little incursions into the path of your front wheel are guerrilla tactics.
In the battle between unremarkable milk sheep and their venerable merino cousins, this is the front line.
And all because they believe their brethren out in New Zealand spend a life perched atop soft cushions, plumped, primped and fed peeled grapes and Earl Grey tea by their human masters; a life of luxury designed to ensure that their conversion from woolly sheep to stylish and functional cycling kit goes off without a hitch.
I have, on occasion, pulled over mid-ride, and tried to explain they’ve got it all wrong.
That the merino sheep of the world are treated much the same as any other sheep. And that actually, to be buttered up and exploited like that is no way for a noble and dignified beast to behave.
But I just get the blank stare and the chewing mouth.
And the guerrilla incursions from the foot soldiers show no signs of abating.
There’s just no talking to these sheep sometimes.
(Image: IFPRI-IMAGES CC via Flickr CC)