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Are you a real cyclist?

Real cycling is not about gear ratios. Or wearing lycra the colour of rainforest toads. Or pedalling to the country pub in the sun, then getting a taxi back because it's dark and raining.


Real cycling is fixing your second puncture on a windy night.

It's buying a three-metre curtain pole, then realising you have to bike it home like a medieval jouster.

It's crunching your way to work through thick snow, arriving half an hour late icy-toed and white-fingered – to find everyone else has taken the day off because their cars wouldn't start.

Real cycling is frustrating, inconvenient, exhausting – and huge fun. See which of these things you've done to find your Real Cyclist rating out of 100.

Have you ever...

1 Shifted a huge load
What's the biggest thing you've moved? For real cyclists, cargo doesn't mean go by car. And we're not just talking plastic carrier bags dangling from the handlebars. We're talking hatstands, vacuum cleaners, sofas, coal bunkers, trees. They've all been biked, and today's trailers can transport anything you could fit in a small car.
Big shopping   5
Mid-size appliance (computer etc)   8
Jumbo comedy item (snooker table, canoe, double bed etc)   11

2 Biked across Britain
What's the longest trip you've done in Britain? The ultimate British ride is Land's End to John O'Groats (the tailwind way). The 900 or so miles takes 1–3 weeks – plus, if you're doing it for charity, about six months to chase up all your sponsors. Too busy? The Coast to Coast (C2C) route is a quick and convenient way to 'do' Britain side-to-side. The inspiring 120-mile route from Workington or Whitehaven to Sunderland or Newcastle can be done easily in a long weekend; a sort of End-to-End Lite. Longer but flatter is the mostly offroad, towpath-'n'-railtrail Trans Pennine Trail from Liverpool to Hull.
C2C, TPT or equivalent   8
Land's End–John O'Groats or equivalent   15
Bonus if you actually collected all your sponsorship money   2

3 Biked to work frozen
Score one point for every degree C below zero (max 10) of your coldest-ever commute. "There's no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing", it's said; true, but arriving at work on a winter morning looking like Sir Ranulph Fiennes rarely makes you look like management material. But then, no-one ever failed to start their bike because of the cold. And car-free snowed-up roads under a clear sharp sky are breathtaking. Literally.

4 Failed a repair
Punctures miles from anywhere are bad enough – especially back-wheel ones from the invisible gramophone needles infesting cycle tracks. But no points for those. To score here you must have failed to fix something major (buckled wheel, blowout, collapsed rack etc) with hopelessly makeshift tools (eg rock, grass to stuff tyre, coat-hanger) and had to push or freewheel back to civilisation.
Failed repair   2
Failed major repair   4
Failed major repair with makeshift tools   6
Failed major repair with makeshift tools long way from civilisation   8

5 Unsuccessfully negotiated a ford
Once a real cyclist spots the sign for a ford, they can't help going that way to see if it's bikable. Maybe itís an echo of that childhood delight for puddle-jumping in red wellies. Sooner or later everyone gets a How I Fell Off story. For maximum effect this involves a dash of overenthusiasm, a crowd of amused onlookers, and some sort of unharmed, but deliquescent, aftermath.
Fell off, warm, nobody saw   2
Fell off, cold, friends saw   4
Fell off, freezing, group of kids saw and asked to see it again   5

6 Been carless
Few things show as much commitment to two wheels. Bask in the respectful astonishment of friends and relatives as they grapple with the enormity ("but how do you take the kids to school... get the shed back from Homebase... get to Gosport or Campbeltown by train and bike?"). Make them feel guilty (fossil fuels, pollution, asthma, road accidents, blah blah).
Have been or once were carless for a year as adult   5
More than three years, actually   10
Bonus if carless adult now   4

7 Dripped all day
English rain, unlike foreign precipitation, can also go upwards, sideways and backwards. It knows where your feet are. In cahoots with puddles it will keep them squelching all day. The exquisite dread of putting on wet socks after camping in the rain is unforgettable.
Yes, and it wasn't fun   4

8 Been thrown off a bus or train
Bikes on trains? No problem: simply call the information line on your mobile phone to see what changes they made to the regulations that morning. Bikes on coaches? They're welcome, so long as you enclose your machine in a six-foot concrete case that's so convenient to carry around... What often makes enforced exits worse is that the carriage was empty anyway, you'd checked up by phone before, the man at Crewe said it would be no problem, etc.
Any enforced exit from public transport   5
Exit with aggravating circumstances: was LOADS of space, you'd been told it was OK, etc   7

9 Ridden a recumbent
It doesn't matter whether you're for ("easier, faster, better on your back and private parts") or against ("dangerous in traffic, impossible up hills"), just so long as you speak from experience.
Yes, have tried   3
Own one   5
Own one, and have festooned it with hi-fi, GPS, phone charger etc   4

10 Had a bike nicked
Appallingly common. When mine was stolen I prayed for the thief. If you work in A&E and had someone admitted in 2005 who had suffered a bizarre bicycle-pump-related accident, you'll know my prayers were answered.
Yes   6
Yes, and fantasised about revenge on thief   7
Yes, and scammed the insurance company   0

11 Been on a Critical Mass
In those pub conversations where you put the transport world to rights, your opinion counts double if you've been on a demo, or on a Critical Mass ride. London's CMs, usually 7pm on the last Friday of the month from the South Bank by the National Theatre, are generally sociable, well-attended shows of gentle force from hundreds of cyclists simply happening to congregate.
Yes   5
Yes, towing a trailer with sound system playing very loud music   -10
Yes, and I'll get the next round   6

12 Recognised someone by their bike
Oh, that looks a bit like Tim's bike.
Oh, it is Tim's bike.
Oh, and that's Tim riding it...
When this happens to you, you know you've arrived. You're a Real Cyclist.
Yes   5
Yes, and I noticed his wheel was a bit buckled   6

How did you score?

Your rating

70+: Real Cyclist
If you run into David Cameron, Josie Dew, Boris Johnson or John Snow in a cafe, you can swop stories as peers.

45-69: Real Good
Lance Armstrong might beat you up the Alps, but you'll be first back with your groceries from Asda.

21-44: Real Trouble
Your bike. Why is it so clean and new-looking?

0-20: Real Bad
Driving your bike to the shop to have a puncture mended is not big or clever, you know...


(We didn't ask any questions about being shouted at for no reason at all by some stupid driver, because we wanted to keep things light-hearted. And, anyway, everyone's been shouted at for no reason at all by some stupid driver.)


If you've enjoyed doing this quiz, you may also enjoy our Real Cycling blog at

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