simon’s cycle shorts. simon a bever. amazon paperback 124pp £8.39
as a conservative bunch of hebrideans, we are not given to naming our bicycles. if i’m riding a specialized, then i’m riding a specialized. never has it occurred to bestow a proper name upon my carbon fibre, like doris, selena or ermintrude because, quite frankly, you’d be able to hear the pelotonic laughter from where you’re currently sitting. it’s just not the done thing. it should likely be adopted by velominati as rule #96: no anthropomorphisation.
that said, it would not be the first time that one of us has remarked that the bicycle probably knows its own way from here to debbie’s without any rider input whatsoever. perhaps that’s the closest we’ll ever come to acknowledging that the humble bicycle might just harbour some sort of personality after all. it is, however, not too much of a stretch to consider that the apparently inert assembly of carbon fibre or steel might have a life of its own, outside the sunday morning amalgamation of ineptitude. it’s a consideration that author simon bever has had the perspicacity to put in print.
simon’s cycle shorts is not, as you might perhaps have misunderstood, a dissertation concerning the lycra netherwear of someone called simon, but a collection of short stories as if written by the bicycles themselves. though occasionally verging on the borders of triviality and contrivance… “Man-no way you’re gonna leave us! Haro was an American BMX bike so always spoke like that.”, bever has made more than just a single pertinent or humorous observation that lifts these short stories above the mundane or, dare i say it, pretension.
for instance, in a story entitled tricyle trial, the author has deconstructed a child’s tricycle by apportioning individual personalities to each component, rather than having the tricycle speak as a single entity. thus we have “The two little wheels at the back always spoke in unison and were always a bit behind everyone else.” and when querying the pedals as to their receollection of having previously ridden to nan’s, they reply “Whatever, whatever.”
more recognisable and grown-up humour is to the fore in the second story entitled the black train.
“Now, if this tale of an extraordinary feat by mere middle-aged men in lyra sounds to be no more than the muddled ramblings of an ageing race bike, then please bear with me.” this tale relates the story of four, well-heeled friends who decide to attempt the etape du tour. the end result, however is not quite as foretold by the early part of the narrative.
“So what happened? How did they manage to get Dan to be first past the post at the finish at Morzine? Well, they had a plan.” i’m sure we’ve all had a plan, but the secret is likely to successfully implement that plan, something that our four friends apparently failed to do, mananging to oversleep and miss their start time. the solution was one we may well have adopted for ourselves “…no one would know that they hadn’t even started the ride, because no one apart from the other competitors actually cares who finishes the Etape.”
as a keen observer of that transpiring around him, simon bever displays a relaxed and acute means of passing this on to the reader. on describing the interaction between two brompton owners, the male of whom may have been intentionally attempting to impress his female counterpart, “Do you think they could be falling in love?”
“No, it usually takes longer than an hour.”
most of the bikes whose stories are related within the book’s 120 + pages are essentially anonymous, but this anonymity is punctuated on page 100, where obree’s old faithful tries to impress upon other track bikes in the cupboard “…Graeme and me are going to break the hour record tomorrow morning.” not unnaturally, old faithful’s peer group consider him to be sadly deluded.
not every story in simon’s bicycle shorts will appeal, but as the title promises, they are all relatively short, making this the ideal book to dip in and out of, with no real demand to read each consecutive page till the end. it’s an easy and light-hearted read, ideal for the bus or tube journey to and from work when it’s really too wet for a bike commute.
sunday 16 july 2017