The indicators that a man has reached peak mid-life crisis are many and varied, but perhaps the most obvious of all is the purchase of a road bike and accompanying lycra paraphernalia.
Yes, until now I’ve kept quiet for fear of reprisal, but I just can’t hide it anymore; this is me coming out of the closet once and for all as a cyclist.
And I say this because farmers and cyclists have a famously fractious relationship at the best of times, let alone at the present when a combination of improved weather and lockdown-induced boredom has led to an increase in the number of tractors and bikes on the roads together.
A quick look at one of the various online farming forums or social media, those famous bastions of moderate and considered opinion, will reveal views ranging from the advocacy of banning bikes altogether to people boasting of intimidating cyclists by purposefully driving close behind them whilst on a tractor. Yes, really.
Great Britain versus France, India versus Pakistan, Farmers Weekly versus Farmers Guardian; none of these historic and often bloody rivalries has anything on tractors and bikes on UK roads.
So, as a newly enthusiastic bicycle-riding tractor driver, I feel I have a unique perspective on the ongoing battle to see who can delay the most commuters.
Before I set off on my maiden voyage, I was advised that I would need some “bib shorts” to help avoid chafing. I can only describe these as a sort of tight one-piece outfit that makes the wearer look strikingly similar to a participant in a 1970s working men’s club wrestling tournament.
I confess that Mrs E’s hysterical reaction to me donning these wasn’t what I’d hoped for, though I put it down to excellent winter daily liveweight gain on my part. More Big Daddy than the Ultimate Warrior these days.
However, undeterred, I set off for the main road. And very, very quickly I realised how extremely difficult it is for cyclists.
For a start, there’s the sheer volume of traffic roaring past you a few inches away at high speed. But nothing can prepare you for the state of crumbling rural roads. You might think you notice potholes whilst driving a tractor, but you don’t.
Not until you’ve been out on a bike do you realise that the frequency and size of the things is pretty much equivalent to the craters of the moon.
So, imagine how difficult it is to concentrate on avoiding these potential death traps, whilst also being conscious of a tractor and trailer bearing down on you from behind. Aha! you might say. Why don’t they just pull over to let us past?
Well, I still hold a severe grudge against the tractor driver that held me up in a convey of hundreds of vehicles on the A483 for an hour once, cheerfully cruising past several places he could have pulled over to let us go by. And let’s face it, this is not an uncommon occurrence. Hypocrisy abounds.
I don’t know what the solution is to the ongoing tractor and bicycle wars, and I don’t suppose there is one, except that perhaps we all need to have a little more consideration for each other, now more than ever.