From a distance, people often think that there is something seriously wrong with Benjamin's face. It's only when they get up close, and look past the baggy jeans, hooded top, and low-slung BMX, that they realise he is 43. Benjamin works for a design agency in East London and carries a record bag. He rides on the pavement, and if people get in his way he will shout something like “gnarly!” or “yo!”. And the weekends, Benjamin and his friend Jeremy used to like going to London's South Bank, to hang out with teenage skateboarders. They haven't been for a while, though, ever since Jeremy caught a gnarly air and wiped out, big-time. The doctors say he might need a new hip.

They don't go very fast, these bikes, but Emily didn't buy hers to get around quickly. She bought it because she liked the leather saddle, and the pretty basket. At first, she used to cycle around staring at the clouds, but the dentist won't let her do that any more. Emily's boyfriend constantly nags her about cycling in ballet pumps, and says she ought to wear some neon lyrcra, because the dynamo conks out whenever she stops at the lights. Emily always smiles, sweetly, but she's quite happy in her muted flowing asymmetrical skirts. Although her hems do get caught in the chain.

In his shirt-sleeves, sensible helmet, shiny black shoes, suit trousers and restraining cycle clips, there's something about Nigel's overall cycling look that faintly screams “pervert”. Not that he cares. For him, cycling isn't about fun. It is simply an efficient way to get from his suburban semi to the station, and then from Liverpool Street to the office. Nigel has no interest in cycling culture, and is fond of telling people that being on a bike is no reason not to follow the Highway Code. All the same, he is inordinately proud of his Brompton folding bicycle. When his wife borrowed the clip-on mini-pump without telling him, he sulked for the whole weekend.

Flora was a hippy in her teens, and she's damned if she's going to start driving a car now. Why bother? She sets off at 7.50 every morning, pulling out into the middle of the red route with a smile of fixed serenity, and forcing all those smelly old buses move at a more reasonable speed. Poppy, on the plastic seat, is proud as punch, although Merlin, in the trailer, is becoming less keen as he gets older. “Please Mum,” he usually begs, “drop me around the corner so that nobody sees, eh?” The other morning, Flora asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “A climate criminal,” he said.

Clive has a pink, all-in-one lycra leotard, and doesn't see why he ought to be ashamed about that. His bicycle cost many thousands of pounds, and is made of the same sort of stuff as badminton racquets. Clive rides his bicycle every day but, at the weekend, instead of cycling at high speed to his job in the City, he'll cycle at high speed to a bicycle shop. Here, he will spend many more thousands of pounds having bits removed from his bicycle, and replaced by other bits that are almost, but not entirely, exactly the same. Clive's bicycle lives in the living room, in front of the television. He has no wife.
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