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Cycle-splaining Made Easy

Our friend and resident of the Cold Dark North, Hannah Reynolds has just launched her new book - 1001 Cycling Tips - a smorgasbord of tips to save you the bother of man-splaining, woman-splaining or just cycle-splaining the basics to any unsuspecting punter. There's something for everyone. Hannah tells us a story about how she came up with the idea for the book:

I saw ‘cycle-splaining’ as a phrase on twitter for the first time recently – the idea that someone is dishing out unwanted or unwarranted cycling advice. The phrase might be relatively new but the activity is anything but.

In some ways I am a cycle-splainer by trade. I spent years writing mainly useful but sometimes I admit sanctimonious cycling fitness advice in the pages of Cycling Weekly. When I’m guiding I drop a piece of cycle-splaining every other sentence. Now I’ve written a book dedicated to the cause of cycle-splaining – 1001 Cycling Tips.

But, hopefully if you bothered to buy a magazine, or sign up for a cycling holiday or even buy my book you were looking for and happy to receive advice. The annoyance is when the advice is unsolicited or mis-placed.

In the book I mention the story of pro-cyclist Mara Abbot, she was buying flats for her commuting bike and the guy in the shop told her to give cleats a try. She pointed out to him with irritation that she knew all about cleats, having used them to ride the Olympic road race. This is possibly one of the world’s finest examples of cycle-splaining and man-splaining. They frequently over-lap.

Although it’s not just men. I once came up to the lip of a drop where two women were stood at the edge looking over. I assumed that they were nervous and hesitant so I stopped to point out a good line. I had actually interrupted a coaching session. I felt like an idiot and apologised profusely. Thankfully I managed to ride the drop cleanly without making a further dick of myself.

People cycle-splain for all sorts of reasons – the most unpleasant is to show off their own knowledge or superiority, the most genuine is because they love cycling and they want to help the person they are speaking to have a better experience.

When I first started cycling I was lucky enough to meet some passionate cycle-splainers who were also genuinely talented riders and experts. I spent years being shoved back onto the wheel and physically man-handled around a bunch to learn how to stay in the sweet-spot out the wind. I sucked up a lot of cycle-splaining and those early years were what got me into racing and into the career I’m in now.

I spent five-years sat next to a cycle-splainer at work – yes, I am looking at you Richard Hallet – but I’m still using and passing on a lot of his advice. Only occasionally did colleagues want to cause grievous bodily harm when forced to listen to yet another explanation of ‘correct’ bike set up or how to perfectly a pace a ‘10’.

Mostly I enjoy being cycle-splained to, when it is an opportunity to learn. However I met a client on a trip once who rejected my offer of help with his bike and then when on to tell me at great length about correct saddle positioning quoting an article I had written!

And another one - I was at a cyclocross race recently and having not raced for ten years and got fat and unfit I didn’t acquit myself very well. But I still felt very insulted by the man who told me that ‘ you need to practice riding in the mud, don’t worry you will get used to it’. Er, hello, I was south of England champion once, don’t you know!

But back to my point, cycle-splaining itself can be a good thing, it shares the knowledge and the joy of cycling and can help people avoid painful, dangerous or embarrassing mistakes. Just check your audience before diving in.

Hannah's book is available from Vertebrae Publishing and, at the time of writing, has a tidy 20% off the retail price too. Click on the picture below to go straight there.

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