The Mod Cycle

Over many an afternoon, when in reality we should have been doing something more work based, me and couple of fellow winos have sat around a pub and discussed a topic that is never far from the surface of our tiny minds.

Namely, is there a mod sport and if so name it? A few sports got a mention, like football – Georgie Best in his pomp and most of the 1964/65 West Ham team described as Mod because of the haircuts, being the main reason – but we truly struggled to come up with many more.

At one sitting, fencing was offered up as a suggestion, much to the merriment of the rest of us. The stylish, clean lines of those taking part was the only evidence offered and though In all honesty, I knew nothing of that sport – there was little call for it on the Peckham council estates of my formative years – but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t recall Steve Marriott with an ‘Epee’ in his hand going after his mate Plonk.

No, fencing as far as I was concerned was a non-runner.

After drinking down to the label, the only activity that came up with which had the agreement of us all was cycling. Pro cycling, the Tour de France and all that. After all the jerseys have been staples of mod wardrobes over many years. I the recall look being picked up in the mid 60s, again in the late 1970s, early 80s – The Style Council Ever Changing Moods video and all that – and then more recently with the collaboration between 2012 Olympic gold medalist and Tour de France winner (Sir) Bradley Wiggins and clothing company Fred Perry.

Back in the mid 1980s and a few stone lighter, I had bought a classic Peugeot /Michelin black and white check cycling top, off a cycling enthusiast of my acquaintance. I’ve still got it and it still a thing of beauty, right down the Esso sign on the top of the right sleeve.

Following on from that, one late night 1985 I found the highlights show on Channel Four of that years Tour. I was brand new to the sport, but for some reason I found it absolutely fascinating, even though I was baffled when hearing that out of the 170 or so taking part, only 6 were predicted who would come close to wining race and claiming the Maillot Jaune

The vagaries of the Tour and the sport of pro cycling in general took me few more years before I got the total hang of what I was watching, but after that initial three weeks of following the race, I was hooked.

The names of those taking part then, Greg Lemond, Robert Millar, Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault are still remembered fondly by me all these years later, with the Tour win in 1987 by Irishman Stephen Roche remaining remarkable achievement.

Thirty years later, I still tune in every July and follow the three weeks of the race. The whole spectacle, the colour and general scenery of the French countryside, being the backdrop to what is a captivating three weeks.

Thinking back to that discussion in the pub, I also now remember another reason that cycling was cited as a mod sport

Namely, the heavy-duty drug taking of those involved over the years.

Perhaps we’ll broach that subject at another time…


The Mumper of SE5