It has been a while since we heard from The Gentleman Cyclist. He has been beavering away in his workshop, having heard that cyclists today seem to like changing gear from the handle bars rather than reaching down to the lever on their down tube. TGC has been trying to find a cable long enough to allow him to try this out, and succeeded by stripping a cable from the Austin Healey in his garage.. The result was quite a revelation and he feels the trend may catch on. Enough of this, we need to interrupt his invention tests as we received an important question in a letter early last week and TGC has been itching to offer his opinion.
I recently joined a cycling club and one of the day idea sounds attractive as it will be fast like me but it has been billed as a “no-numpties” ride.
I’m not familiar with this term but since you are knowledgable on all cycling etiquette matters I thought you might be able to shed some light on this and advise if this is a ride I should be doing.
Thank you for your letter. I was intrigued when I read it as it was not a term that we hear much down here in Oxfordshire. It is almost certainly not a term that should be used in polite company and I wondered if perhaps your friend from the cycling club is from North of the Border. Glasgow perhaps or Aberdeen. Is he large, bearded, ginger haired, smells perennially of whiskey and wears one of those skirts that the Scots insist on calling a kilt?
The starting place for all definitions is, of course, that momentous tome of the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED defines the word as follows:
Numpty: A stupid or ineffectual person.
If we start to break this down for cycling purposes, then stupid might refer to not knowing how to ride a bicycle properly, or perhaps more likely, not knowing how to ride safely in a group. Equally possibly he is trying to highlight that or being unaware of the protocols of riding in his group could, perhaps bring an element of danger to a fast and furious ride. Ineffectual on the other hand is probably assessing an element of how much work an individual is willing to do to support the group, and namely, no wheelsuckery. This therefore would seem to imply that if you are either brand new to riding with the club or you have the intention to sit on the back (cough! triathlon style) and let the others work for you, then this is probably not your ride.
On a lighter note, and entering into the spirit of our colonised neighbours, I think it important in my answer to give some guidance on the proper usage of the term as just throwing it into any sentence just won’t do. For this guidance, there is no better place to look than the esteemed Urban Dictionary. I know you are probably asking yourself what a Gentleman such as myself would be doing even with knowledge of such a base publication, but when one cycles to the remoter parts of High Wycombe then, if one is to be able to communicate, then one, as the saying goes, needs to be “down with the kids”
Urban Dictionary defined Numpty as follows:
“Someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others.”
or to be blunt
“Numpty first surfaced on the terraces of west of Scotland football grounds, many many years ago. A player who couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a shovel would be a f***ing numpty.”
In terms of using the phrase, it is important to put on a broad Scottish accent when you use it to get the full effect and some examples you might use are:
“Awww Jimmy ya numpty!! You couldnae score wi’ ma’ sister!”
“they numpties couldnae organise a pissup in a brewery.”
“Nay! That wisnae wit she meant, ya greet numpty!”
To bring this home, you might consider the following at your next club ride:
“Did ya see that greet numpty fall over at the lights, he couldnae unclip from his pedals”
“Would that numpty on the front pedal when he’s going downhill the rest of the group is up ‘is arse”
“What’s that numpty doing ten meters off the front? Couldnae he look over his shoulder and see he’s riding faster than the rest o us”
“Ya couldnae sprint for a bus ya greet numpty, just sit on me wheel and I’ll show you how its done”
These are, of course, just guidelines to get you started, and I look forward to hearing the inventiveness of the crowd in tomorrow’s ride.
In the immortal words of that peoples cyclist Mao Zedong
“Let a hundred flowers blossom ya greet numpties!”