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.
Ride, roll, spin.
Gasp. As if to live I must fight for air.
Hunched, knees unnaturally near jaw
Not the poise of one who flies.
So nails can enjoy the view.
Drink suckled from teat
Nothing odd with that.
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.
Tan lines fading. Motivation too. Mornings cooler, darker. Days shortening. Summer fades so quickly into autumn, an annual event that somehow manages to surprise and disappoint us. Ahead, only darkness. Nine months into the year and the dear cyclist begins to think of hibernation.
The paradox of fitness peaking, body stronger than ever yet oh so tired, weary, continually on the limit. Limbs lighter, mind perhaps wiser, most importantly you’re a quicker rider. Yet probably still not satisfied. You can always be quicker.
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.
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!
Drum roll please… many years in the making, I finally entered and completed a hill climb race. And yes, I loved it! What kind of animal looks forward to pain, who destroys their body in pursuit of seconds and metres gained? The hill climber. A strange beast.
I’ve always enjoyed hill climbs. There’s nothing quite like the fire in your lungs and legs near the summit of a hill and knowing you’ve still got to push on. A mental challenge as much as physical, only will power and the ability to block pain gets you through the final metres of a climb. Come on!
The pack, the bunch, the group, the bastards. Group riding is both a chore and a delight, your definition determined by the gap between the pace of the pack and your fitness.
- The main field or group of cyclists in a race.
French, literally ‘small ball’
Get off my road, you shout, as if I’m an immigrant ahead of you in the doctors, a leech on your neck. You are vocal yet you are in the minority. Venom for no other reason than I check your progress, your assumed and ill conceived right to the road makes me your enemy, a fly you must swat aside, a lesson you must teach.
Once you’ve scared me, passing so close that I could touch your car with my elbow, I wonder how the kids in the back seat of your car perceive you, I wonder how you react at work when you’re told to do something, or how your partner puts up with you after you’ve had a few beers, or how you feel when you look at yourself in the mirror. Proud probably, unfortunately.