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Riverfront Arts Centre, Newport, Fri 17 Nov

I begin to wonder, in the foyer of the Riverfront Arts Centre, what sort of show this will be, as I note the number of lycra-clad calves milling about in readiness for its start. A show called Bikeology presumably attracts Bikeologists – men and women for whom biking is a preference, a predilection, a passion, even. I am not such a one. My partner does cyclo-cross, and comes home muddy from racing, but I just watch from a distance – my armchair, usually – and lead a generally lycra-free life.

I do not know what a bottom bracket is – those who do, and who care about such things, no doubt make up a high percentage of the audience at this packed-out theatre event. However, host Ned Boulting is gently mocking of such nerdiness, whilst happily admitting that, to some of us, he may seem a nerd himself. Thus, Boulting is self-deprecating, even as he gently teases others, and this adds a lot to the geniality and jolly atmosphere of the show, making it accessible and lacking in pretension from the get-go.

Whilst he may not be a ‘Colin’ or a ‘Belinda’, furiously cycling to work every morning, Boulting does know what a bottom bracket is, and is rather more than just a fanatic, having written several books on and around the subject of cycling. An ITV commentator, his face is familiar, even to someone as un-sporty as myself. What was not ascertained from his television appearances, however, is that Boulting is a very fine performer indeed. Engaging, entertaining, and highly humorous, it’s easy to be drawn into his world without feeling like a spare bicycle part at all, through his confident yet affable character and ability to engage and converse with an entire audience.

Cycling into the show and cleverly intertwining live features such as this with film – in this case showing him approaching the venue – added a lot to proceedings. There was a good balance of film, speech, humorous activity, and audience interaction, which made the whole thing flow along at a great pace. Too soon it was over, but this writer will hope to catch this tour again if it comes to Wales next year which, lycra-clad or not, will be just as exciting to attend. 


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