Did you know that every (dry and warm) Sunday, several groups of middle-aged Jewish men take their bicycles out into the countryside north of London on what they call training rides? They are training for one of the many charity bike rides that take place throughout the summer months.
These cyclists are easy to spot. They ride fancy bikes, wear lurid Lycra and they puff and pant. We may turn up our noses at balding beer-bellied football fans in their club shirts but surely they’re no worse than balding cake-bellied cyclists hoping to pass themselves off as Lance Armstrong? Of course, having the kit doesn’t make them Lance Armstrong. For one thing, Lance likes to ride his bike whereas a Jew likes to admire his bike through the window of a coffee shop while telling his friends how much it cost.
The other topic of cappuccino conversation is how much they have raised so far for their chosen charity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a good cause, and as a keen(ish) environmentalist can think of few better ways than a cycle challenge to achieve it. I just think it’s a pity that they have to fly out to the other side of the world in order to participate. Instead of stumping up hundreds of pounds just to get to the start line, they could give even more to the charity and keep their carbon footprint confined to their fancy schmancy carbon-fibre bikes.
Truth be told, you’ll be lucky if you ever see a Jew actually riding his bike. If he’s not resting in Starbuck’s after a solid three miles in the saddle he’s trying to fix a puncture without suitable tools. And when I say he’s trying to fix a puncture what I really mean is he’s amongst half a dozen men crowded around his dismantled wheel, rather like the doctors who examined the Roswell aliens; at the same time curious and fearful.
After several minutes one will suggest using tyre levers to extract the inner tube. “Good idea” says his pal. “What are tyre levers?” asks a third as he pathetically pokes around with an old butter knife (the Jew’s universal tool) that lives in the neat little under-the-saddle tool bag – the one that contains, apart from the butter knife, his keys, a wad of cash to pay for coffee and cake, several credit cards in case he needs more coffee and cake, and a couple of energy bars.
Eventually the self-appointed mechanic snaps the butter knife and withdraws in embarrassment leaving the rest to clear up the mess. Before long they are back on the road and heading for the nearest café.
Of course I’m generalising. Some Jewish cyclists take the sport incredibly seriously. My friend Moishe is one such and his speciality is hill climbing. When he’s managed to negotiate a few speed bumps he heads directly for the coffee shop claiming to be “King of the Mountains”. Mountains of cake, more like.
The other place you’ll see a Jewish cyclist is in the bike shop. In every group of Jewish cyclists at least one will be preening proudly aperch his brand new super-lightweight machine.
Why, when he only bought a new bike last year, has he gone and spent the equivalent of Greece’s national debt on another? “Because this one is faster on account of it being three grammes lighter than that old piece of junk”, he’ll inform you as he squeezes through the doors of Starbuck’s on his way to yet another latte and cheesecake.