The Smiths, profanity and The Reluctant Cyclist

‘Punctured bicycle on a hillside desolate’ sang Morrissey in 1983. Little did he know that little over thirty years later abandoned bicycles would be the identifier of one of the biggest trends in cycling. The cyclist who thinks ‘Sod this, I’m getting a taxi.’ The Reluctant Cyclist.


The Reluctant Cyclist takes many forms. The friend or spouse of the fanatic, dragged out in all weathers for a 50 mile trek when all they want to do is sit on the settee in their dressing gown. The New Year Resolutionist who has told everyone on social media that they are going to cycle to work each day, then the harsh reality of pedalling through slush in January kicks in around about week two. Strange as it may seem, the fanatic could also become a Reluctant Cyclist if forced to ride with a group less skilled and who don’t take it quite as seriously as they should.

Whatever form they take, they have one thing in common. They hate you. Not just you, they hate everyone. Other cyclists, other road users, smug bus passengers reading their books with their headphones in, pedestrians, people sat outside pubs enjoying themselves, people sat in cafes having a quiet moment, even me, sat here snug under a blanket writing a blog. They despise all of us.

A recent study showed that swearing can increase by a whopping 600% amongst reluctant cyclists. A clever bloke in glasses developed a formula that was recently published in the Journal of Profanity Studies.

Company x Incline x Weather x Other road users = Swears Per Minute (SPM)

A lady from South Shields recently managed an incredible 106 utterances of “For fuck’s sake” on a one mile stretch in Northumberland.

SPM isn’t the only measure. Swearing Intensity measures the venom in which the swearing is delivered.

Company x Incline x Weather x Incident = Swearing Intensity (SI)

The incident could be anything from a car overtaking a bit too close, to a partner cycling five miles ahead because they believe the reluctant cyclist isn’t trying hard enough. The largest SI on record was when a cycling fanatic dropped a devastating ‘C Bomb’ whilst hurling his £2k bike through the window of his favourite cafe on discovering it was closed for refurbishment.

Both the SPM and SI are shown to increase when the reluctant cyclist feels that they have been tricked into their ride. The most common question a Reluctant Cyclist will ask is “Is it going to rain?” The obvious answer from the fanatic will be “No, I’ve seen the forecast.” This will inevitably be a lie and lead to recriminations including anything from long huffs to violence.

There’s one brand of Reluctant Cyclist who it is hard not to have sympathy for. Whether to save a few quid or shed a few pounds they cycle to work each day, donning a high vis jacket and their Tupperware and flask tied to the back of the bike. They never change gear, partly because it is too much effort, mainly it is because they never learned how to. The entirety of their time on a bike is spent dreaming of a lottery win or swerving in front of a bus to end the misery that is cycling.

If you are a Reluctant Cyclist, you can put a stop to it. You can end the cycle.

Puncture your tyres before setting off, nobble the chain, start acting like a toddler by saying things such as “I can’t find my shoe.” The fanatic will eventually snap and decide to go out on their own.

If you really want to get out of it, it is easy. The Smiths didn’t have all the answers in the eighties, you need to take the lead from pop visionaries The Grange Hill Cast and Just Say No.


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