The virgin road

New. Never travelled. Perhaps your eyes traced a pixellated line on a screen the night before or perhaps you simply turned left instead of right. Ahead only virgin road unridden. The unknown.

Every turn a mystery. Eyes keen, alert for every next direction. A cartographer committing landmarks to memory, extending your mental map lest you travel this way again.

Gasp. The landscape surprises, amazes. Simple things. A twee village, a church perched on a hill, parallel trees in formation either side of the road, a big cow. Nothing of great note, not even worthy of a photograph, the scenery the sum of its parts, less a vision more a feeling.

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Unstructured structure – Agile training plans

Structured training plans - Go Agile Structure is both the saviour and enemy of the free. It brings rules and regulations, it moderates and provides guidance. And boy do we need guidance. Total freedom is chaos. Anarchy.

Structure is the foundation upon which society is formed. A system that frees us from anarchy yet strips us of our freedom. We are not free, we are civilised. Stifled. Structure restricts. It forces square pegs into round holes. It discriminates, it bores.

Yet few flee the structure of society. We fear the unstructured. We impose rules and structure on all we encounter. Conversations, days, lives, damn, even cycling. Gone is the joy of random walks, of chance encounters, of just popping out for a ride.

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The inevitable guilt complex

Lazy cyclist sleepingLife, I decided, is more important than cycling. Blasphemy. Nay, treason. Hang him from the rafters. Lovers who’ve come to terms with their love for one another and other people.

We’re not exactly on a break, no. We’re just open to seeing other people. And you know what, I’m enjoying it. Lazy lie ins, eating what I like, not dreading the turbo. This is the life.

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Getting older and cycling, still

Old man bmx bikeAge creeps up on us, say some. Not the cyclist. For every day we’re fighting it, raging against the dying light.

Life passes quickly. Like a mountain descent, we cling on, releasing the brakes for as long we dare, bracing ourselves for the next bend, for the end.

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What am I training for? [The meaning of life]

I don’t race, I ride. Yet I’m training. Many will question the word training. As if an amateur cannot train. Especially one who does not race. You are not an Olympian, you are not a pro, you are not a racer, you are not training.

Yet I am training. Despite being self-coached my amateur training is more advanced than most professionals of days gone by. I have rigid plans and structures. I have training zones and a ‘fueling strategy’ aka a balanced diet. I monitor progress and apply basic sport science, some of it half-baked, some of it not. The trouble being you never really know which is which. I take myself far too seriously and I wear a headband for christ sake, I must be training.

For what I’m training for, I cannot say. There’s no medals to point to. There’s the small number of hill climb races I enter. Or the bravado of leading out the peloton or the fear of being dropped on a club ride. There’s local hills and personal bests. Yet I’m not really training for any of these.

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Obsessions only cyclists have

Cycle thoughts

Yeah, I’m niche. Not really something to boast about yet we humans like to feel as if we’re forging our own paths, that we are remarkable in some small way, atypical, one of a few. We follow not crowds, only our own will, for yes I’m smart, in control, not one of them, all those others who look and behave just like me, nay, observe me closely, I’m different, I’m special goddamnit.

Cyclists are no different. As a collective, we’re often accused of being self-entitled or ego-led, self-important, self-aggrandising, and as such hate figures to some. Yet the truth is we’re not special, we’re no different to others based on our choice of transport.

We do have our quirks, obsessions that help define us, routines which bond us. Damn, we are special after all.

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Hello winter bike. Please forgive me.

Cycling in snow

Hello old friend. It’s been a while. What? Yes, it’s that time of year again. I know, I know. Brrr.

Her? The mistress? That was a mere summer fling, showing off in front of others, a lightweight frolic beneath the sun.

Nothing compares to you, ever dependable winter bike, bike number 1 once and forever. You’re the one who gets me through the hard times, little reward for your endeavours but hour upon hour of steady rolling through frozen landscapes, more mud than road.

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Why do cyclists climb mountains?

Cycling up mountainsA strange addiction. Climbing to the skies, slow motion, pain, body revolting, hour after hour of mental questions. Why am I climbing this mountain?

We’re a strange bunch us cyclists. Speeding along dressed in tights, bottoms padded, riding great distances much to the bemusement of non-cyclists.

To them it’s unfathomable that riding up a mountain, a mountain for god’s sake, can be pleasurable. If only they knew.

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The melancholy of losing form and fitness

Cycling tired

I used to be a contender. I could have taken that KOM. I was quicker goddammit and now look at me. Pathetic.

Slow with a tailwind, the merest incline induces a series of huffing and puffing and effing and blinding. Strava automatically marks my rides as private as a sign of a respect to my former self. Inner chimp has become inner chump. Yep, I’m most definitely outta shape.

Empty legs, head and heart. The unthinkable has happened. I’ve fallen out of love with cycling. Say what now? Surely not? The urge long lost, denial initially fuelled more riding. Perhaps I’ll just blast through it, I thought, kidding nobody. This lasted for two months before THAT ride.

It’s over.
Such relief.

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