(this was originally called Photocycling, but it sounded too much like something plants would do)
Photography has been a hobby of mine on and off for a long time. When you go walking in the hills, carrying an SLR - which is what you need, smaller cameras are just not as good - around your neck is not too much of a hassle until the going gets rough. Then, it'll start swinging about and bashing into things, which is annoying, and the camera might not like it much either. When riding, carrying an SLR on a strap round your neck is just not going to work at all.
But taking pictures in the mountains is an absorbing, addictive pastime. Whole afternoons can be easily wasted trying to get the definitive shot of a single wildflower, distant peak or dashing stream. Even worse, if you are chasing a particularly photogenic parrot. Worse still, if you have first spent hours walking to these wonderful places. So: we shall cycle there, instead; much faster. How then shall we carry our SLRs? Why, in our rucksacks, of course.
Er, no. I hate carrying a rucksack while cycling. And if you do, what then when you round a bend and see a scene that simply must be photographed? You have to stop, take the rucksack off, get the camera out, etc, etc. Then re-pack it when you're finished. Nay, said I; bugger that. I got a chest pack for the SLR which also takes a spare (long) lens. Screech to a stop, pull the thing out, click, and away; brilliant. From then on, close-up flora or distant fauna, they did not escape me. They stood no chance, and were fortunate I only wanted their picture.
On these long missions, I ended up in more and more remote places, the trips becoming more about photography and less about cycling, until I'd see nary a soul for the entire mission; which was probably just as well. Coming back into town with the thing on, covered in mud, dust and scratches, people stared at me; clearly, this was a pursuit in which no-one else was engaged. I looked, at the very least, strange to them. A friend of mine told me I looked like a ponce.
One day, fairly soon, somebody will come up with a smartphone camera that takes pictures better than the fruit-based device I used to take most of the photos on this website. Until then, I'll risk it, and keep looking for one single other person out there cyclophotographing things.
A few years ago, some of the aerodynamic features of triathlon bikes started appearing on road bikes. Where once we had road bikes, we seem to have three broad types now - the lightweight climbing bike, the endurance bike and the aero road bike. The aero bike might be a bit heavier, but it will go faster on the flat because everything about it - the wheels, handlebars, tubing, and crucially the riding position, have been optimised to reduce wind resistance. Couple this with tight clothing and even a special helmet, and you may look like a bit of plonker, but you are just about guaranteed to go faster for the same effort. Now I ride both road and mountain, in a place that can be very windy (Wellington, New Zealand). And riding one day on our classic little paradise loop round the bays, and the next day on the Skyline track aboard my mountain bike into a constant, battering northerly, I thought: "It's windier up here than it is down there. Why then are we be-baggied, upright like a barn door, and aboard bikes designed without a thought to air resistance?"
The, ahem, skinsuit worn by XC racers on telly was a step too far. But in Beaumes-de-Venise in France a couple of years ago, I finally snapped. Riding the mountains of the Vaucluse and the long, rolling hills of the Luberon with the Mistral whipping at me for hours on end, I'd had enough. I skidded to a halt outside a lovely little cycling apparel shop on Avenue Raspail and emerged 20 minutes later dressed like Spiderman, but with short sleeves. The baggy T-shirt went in the bin outside. I've rolled that way ever since; I'm convinced I can feel the difference.
The next step was the bike. I admit that was a particularly windy day, but the stem got flipped, spacers came out, and the saddle went up. This is probably what made the real difference. When I got back to NZ, still thinking about it, I got some lightweight aerobars and mounted them on my XC bike, pushing the saddle forward, and took them out on a windy day (didn't have to wait too long). The difference was incredible, although it did hurt my neck. I'm currently working on the next incarnation, a new bike which is a 50:50 cross between a hardtail and a triathlon bike; I'll keep you posted.