News that Utrecht will be starting point of the 2015 Tour de France seems highly appropriate for a city that is in the process of building the world’s largest multistorey bicycle park. But I was quickly reminded that the omnipresence of cycling in the Netherlands does not equate to the same fascination with cycling culture. As one Dutch colleague pointed out, “bicycles have no reason to be funny for us — they just are”. Otto Beaujon, secretary of De Oude Fiets, very kindly showed me around his collection of historic bicycles, memorabilia and documents: while there are examples of play, humour or even satire to be found, these have never been especially prominent in Dutch cycling culture outside the world of children’s bicycles incarnated by Piet Pelle.
Obvious in retrospect, this was one among several useful points to emerge from the 2014 International Society for Humor Studies conference, my first attempt to present the “Jeux cyclistes” project to an international academic audience. Many thanks to the colleagues who provided useful feedback and suggestions for material, with interesting perspectives from as far afield as Macedonia and Japan. If humour is most often associated with concepts like incongruity, surprise and anxiety, bicycles are most obviously humorous when they represent a new and disruptive social phenomenon. Continuer la lecture