Slim Pickings

When you get to certain age, people don’t aspire to be strong, fit or fast any more. Just merely being slim has become the new goal. Modest as it is, it’s a hopeless aspiration for many and a cause of envy for others. Though others may struggle with it, when someone compliments me for being slim it sounds to me like I’m being damned with faint praise.

When you’re young no one would dare call you slim. Not for blokes anyway. It’s a very effeminate and emasculating compliment. What you want to hear is questions about whether you do your washing on your abs, or crack nuts between your biceps. You want someone to challenge you to a push-up competition, chin-up, anything, hell a pie eating competition or who can piss up the wall highest. Then as time goes on it would seem that merely avoiding being fat is a form of success.

When complimented for being slim (see my lovely physique below) the follow-up question is, how do you do it? My stock answer is, “It’s called exercise, you should try it.” That often doesn’t suffice because the person asking after my slimness does exercise. They attend one of those classes at least once a week and raise a paltry sweat in the cloistered confines of a fitness studio. They’ve also recently started one of those combined therapy classes, like yogalates, zumbayogalates or zumbayogaspinclasslates. Some even have a personal trainer. A personal trainer! A whole other human dedicated to moving their fat arse through an hour of exercise. So my answer, it’s about the exercise stupid, doesn’t cut it.

(My physique attracts many compliments. Now you can see why.)

At this point I admit to them that I cycle. And then with a nod of resignation they say, “Ah, you cycle,” because everyone knows that cycling is dangerous and unobtainable for anyone over the age of…say…14. And it’s also amazingly good exercise. I can burn more calories cycling to the pub and back home than they do in a single class with a long and convoluted title. Even a single syllable class like Zumba probably isn’t as effective as riding a bike to and from the Zumba class.

It always amazes me that it takes two people just get one person through some exercises. The personal trainer seems to be a badge of honour for some people. You know how they talk about “my personaly trainer” like this person has no other clients. It’s not like they’re on the payroll like my butler and French maid. To me it seems like a badge of laziness and stupidity. Unless you’re an elite or sub-elite athlete the appearance of a trainer on the scene is really just testimony to your inability to get yourself going. And if the trainer was any good, he (or she) would turn up at your door and ride with you to the training facility. Because it’s the ride that’s doing you the most good.

(My maid test-riding one of my impressive collection of bikes.)

In Australia few people ride anywhere. There are so many SUVs lined up outside the local park during training sessions that I despair for what would happen if everyone in  Oz decided to get fit at the same time. We’d choke to death on our own car fumes.

Our inability to see bikes as transport is the reason we have Ride2Work Day, one day of the year when a few people are coaxed out of their cars with camaraderie and a sausage sizzle. As ever, I won’t ride to work on Ride2Work day, because I work from home. My wife has joined in the Ride2Work fun though and has entered a competition to win a Trek bicycle. Needing a slogan for  Ride2Work my wife emailed me looking for suggestions. (Only natural when you have accomplished writer and self-taught publicist in the house.) Here are the results of my brilliance:

  • Ride to work: not as dangerous as it looks.
  • Don’t be a jerk, ride to work.
  • Don’t be a fatty, follow a ride to work strategy.
  • Don’t be a slob, ride to your job.
We’ve already been advised that they’re popular around the office but unlikely to be used. So if you do see one of these on a t-shirt come Ride2Work day, you’ll truly know that down at the Ride2Work office they truly had slim pickings for decent slogans.


  1. CJ

    There seems to be an increasing amount of bicycle advocacy happening these days, I feel that it may not be great for cycling and could even detract significantly from it. That’s going to seem obtuse at first but if the cycling advocacy campaigns were significantly successful in inflating cycling numbers, it could make that little wedge of road we cycle on very busy and congested which could mean having to ride slower making the healthy aspect of cycling more difficult as it’s only excercise when you raise your heartrate significantly and for a prolonged period. Another point is to look back on the past and remember what happened the last time cycling had a mentionable percentage of participation, a few people had some tumbles and suddenly we all had to wear helmets forever or else get fined and verbally abused. Imagine what ineffective, overpriced styrofoam contraption will become mandatory once fred and wilma inevidably come off their hybrids (we’ve all been there, falling off a bike that is, not on a hybrid). Also, it would bring a greater demand for infastructure which will ultimately justify greater demand for input by users, and that means…REGISTRATION! I think that this is exactly what people who hate cyclists want for us, to be as unhappy as they are constantly paying registrations, fines, caught behind everyone else and just having a shitty time. It may seem like an impossible scenario, however the argument for cycling is becoming increasingly convincing, especially taking into account that it offers an answer to the modern anxieties of environmentalism and fat-assness. It could just become another place for people to do something that they don’t really want to do but feel that they have to, like a gym for example. This really isn’t the kind of thing that cycling should become, it needs to be wild and free, a cheeky secret between participants that anybody can do, but should only do for their own reasons and not because a clever campaign convinced them to. I guess what I’m saying is that there are some really great advantages to cycling being unpopular, Amsterdam seems like a cycling utopia but if you talk to someone who has lived there for a while about cycling they’ll just bitch to you about conjestion, dangerous riders and getting stuck in the slow lane, pretty much the same as what a driver here bitches about. Anyhoo, sorry about the essay, but you don’t get any comments anyway, so I guess here they all are in one.
    Thanks for reading.

    1. James Pollock

      Wow, what an exhaustive comment. I agree with most of your rant (hell, if someone’s ranting, that’s usually enough for me) but I’m not too worried about registration. There is so much that’s wrong with registration from the point of view of an incumbent government. There’s how little money it’ll raise versus the cost of policing it. There’s problems around setting age limits for registration and (again) policing those. There’s the backlash from the powerful cycling lobby (okay I jest). It would take an extremely stupid and/or mean government to target cyclists over something that is of so little benefit and comes with a mean enforcement overhead… Wait, you’re right, we’re totally screwed. These guys are just about dumb enough and the other guys mean enough to anything. Let’s keep cycling dangerous, fun and exclusive. Let them fatties die the slow way.

      Oh, and thanks for the comment about my lack of comments. That made me laugh. Cause it’s true.

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