Old school. A village hall in the middle of nowhere marks the start of most Reliability Trials. Instant coffee in a polystyrene cup. Bottomless, for an extra 50p. Pre-ride cake. Mid-ride cake. Post-ride cake.
There’s no gel handouts on a reliability ride, no electrolytes, no timing chip, just a piece of paper and a home printed certificate to acknowledge your ride. Pah, it’s almost as if Strava doesn’t exist. Come the end there’s no medal to hang around your neck. I know, it was news to me that I’m no hero for riding a bike.
Reliability Trials flirt with a certain romance of days gone by, a chance to revel in nostalgia, for this is club cycling’s heritage, when men were men and bikes were steel. Roar! Yet a Reliability Trial is far removed from the machismo and competitive nature of many cycling events. It’s refreshing to be a part of something that’s very much, well, nothing, more so in this sportive filled age of epic bike rides and boutique cycling festivals.
I don’t know how it began, nor why. Before I knew it I was clocking up monster winter rides every weekend, 100 miles minimum. December through January. In the UK. Nuts?
Average ride temperatures between -1 and 3 degrees Celsius, 8 hours of daylight if you’re lucky, or if you actually bothered to set your alarm, which I didn’t. Setting off late morning into the gloom, the day already darkening. Part of some grand training plan? Kind of, but not really. I was simply enjoying myself. Why?
Respect. That’s what missing from our roads. Nobody respects anybody. Drivers in cycle lanes, cyclists on pavements, pedestrians in cycle lanes, cyclists running red lights, drivers speeding. It goes on. We’ve become a self-entitled, self-centred, self-important society. A self society. And it’s ugly, real damn ugly.
Sure, we must look out for ourselves but at all costs? What does it cost to look out for others? To respect and care for one another? I can but dream. We cyclists often feel like we’re on the receiving end in such a world, and it’s often true, yet we also ignore others in the pursuit of the self. I count myself amongst that number.
We need a break. It’s over. It’s me, not you. I can commit no longer, I need space, I’m tired. Let’s not get emotional, let’s enjoy the memories we shared, fond moments we’ll never forget. So long bike.
Done. Kaput. Finito. The end of the cycling season comes to an abrupt halt, no warning, just like that, you stop cycling. Mercy. One week you’re loving every ride, no end in sight, not even winter will stop you, and then bang, you’re sat inside on a lovely day, no motivation, no guilt, beer in hand, telly on, belly out.
Paris. An empty day. Two wheels. Ahead only joy. Time to indulge, a cycleur with a city to discover, unknown streets to aimlessly meander by bike. Turn left or maybe right, whimsy my guide, seeking new sights and sounds and smells, new moments that will form long standing memories and will come to define the city.
“To err is human. To loaf is Parisian.”
Which way? You can’t get lost if you’ve nowhere to go and you can’t be late if you’ve no place to be. Time is unimportant, so too location, for everything is about the here and the now.
Buying a new road bike. It begins as a vague idea, quickly turns into excitement and then snowballs into a major headache before becoming a lesson in the art of procrastination. We turn what should be a pleasurable activity into pure torture. Why?
The paradox of choice. We’re overwhelmed. Marginal differences between groupsets, between colour schemes. Is this the lightest bike I can afford, are these the best wheels, is it aero enough, should I get electric gears, will it fit me? A series of questions which we will over analyse, doubts that will preoccupy our minds more than life itself.
Want to be a faster rider? Of course you do. What if I told you that for around £9 a month you could be quicker, stronger and better looking? Well, that last one’s a stretch, but many cycling services promise to make you a better cyclist. Are they true?
Yes and no. Truth be told, nobody needs these programmes, not if they are highly motivated and have all the time in the world. Yet this isn’t always the case. It’s like exercise and weight loss videos. Of course you could exercise and eat better without the videos, but for some training videos add structure, motivation and a basic education. Cycle training services do the same.
Not today. It’s Sunday. Rest day. No work, no nothing. Two horrible hill climb races in one day? No thanks, not for me. I awoke rested but still sleepy, my body refusing to wake as if it knew what was ahead. Eugh.
Where the hell was my inner chimp when I needed him? Any other time he’s roaring me on, daring me to ride harder, to hurt more. Only he chooses today to disappear, perhaps finally committing to his long overdue visit to the vets for some rabies inoculations. Continue reading
Climber’s cough plagues me. My lungs burn. It is six hours since I raced up Swains Lane in the brilliant Rollapaluza Urban Hill Climb race. Regrets? Sure, but only my tactics!
Hosted on my local hill, Swains Lane, a short sharp lung buster I’ve had an on-off relationship with for many a year. I’ve climbed it 94 times in 4 years, a tiny amount considering I think of this as my local hill. Why? Mentally Swains Lane has gotten into my psyche. It is the hill I think about when I talk about hill climbing, the hill I think about when I imagine pain. Lots of pain.
We cyclists lie to ourselves. A lot. Like most of the human race we rely on perception rather than reality. We are our own marketing managers and spin doctors, massaging reality to tell ourselves that all is well in the world. We are not mental. Well, just a little.
Little mind tricks are what keep us pedalling on cold wet rides or slogging through an interval or headwind. They make us better riders or enable us to hold our heads a little higher when we realise that yes actually, we do look a little ridiculous wearing Lycra and hobbling and slipping on our cleats in supermarket aisles whilst searching for cheap energy!