Having drinks at Port Said, one of the trendier bars in my neighbourhood, I ran into some old industrial designer friends. We got talking but within a few minutes I realised I was already excluded. Usually I find this upsetting; but today I was relieved. For, panting like pubescent school-boys in the presence of a Playboy bunny, they gazed out over the sea of cigarette smoke towards the two bikes chained against the railings of Tel-Aviv’s Great Synagogue.
“I’m thinking of getting a new saddle,” said one, and the other simply nodded at the sage wiseness of this comment.
“A Brooks?” he said. “Which one?”
On they went. And on. And on. Never quite becoming bored of talking about a fucking saddle.
Don’t get me wrong. I like my bike. Love it even. Tel-Aviv is such a compact city and the weather is generally so good that there is no better way around than on two wheels. My bike is one of my most useful, if not prized, possessions But I’m not ten, and so I don’t – no, I can’t – fetishise it to the level of these two 30-somethings who really should know better. I have a saddle and it works. End of.
Their bikes, however, were even worse than the inherent creepiness of their conversation. You’ve all seen them – narrow frames, elastic-band skinny tyres, single speed (if not the dreaded fixed gear), ridden by smug bastards in American Apparel perfect polyester. In principle, I have nothing against them – I can see the attraction in flat, well asphalted, well maintained cities like Amsterdam, London or New York. But here in Tel-Aviv they’re about as appropriate as that Playboy bunny topless at the Hajj.
Tel-Aviv is built on sand dunes which means that the slightest crack in the road or pavement spews a sea of nasty, gritty, slippery yellow all over the street. Drivers are insane, tarmac often ends abruptly, pavements are optional on many streets and are usually covered with the rubble of a dozen demolished buildings. If my well-worn mountain bike has problems negotiating this urban obstacle course, these Hipster Wagons really are death on two wheels.
Yes, you can get them in any lurid (and, it must be admitted, attractive) combination of colours your little hipster heart desires, and yes they’re actually an Israeli company (with an offshoot in East London of course), but they’re corrupting the not-so-young and endangering an entire generation. Although, my friends aside, the ones they’re endangering probably won’t be missed.
When the waiter arrived and started panting too, I politely made my excuses and, with a heavy heart, left them be. Everyone needs a hobby, but they need one more appropriate to 30-somethings already crushed by the disappointments of life. Like internet porn. Or a suitable drug addiction.