Some cycling companions are, to put it bluntly, numbers monkeys.
When they invite you out on a ride you ask them ‘what’s the plan, where are we going’, and they will give you a forensic breakdown of the distance you will cover, the height you will gain, the kind of average speed you can expect to travel and even the gradient of some of the climbs.
But for some, for the Quality Controllers among us, all this is superfluous.
They will take you out for a ride, and you will be out on the bike for no more than an hour and a half, but you will cover 25 or 30 of the most varied, interesting and downright pleasurable miles you have ever had the good fortune to pedal.
You will ride along dappled country lanes, up onto wide and breathless hilltops, down sweeping valleys, and through villages of exquisite English beauty.
With each significant landmark you pass your friend will regale you with history and culture, describe the geographical features, or simply tell you a funny story. He will then whisk you along to a café which treats it’s cyclists like minor celebrities; they will serve you before the other customers, with extra large portions, and will bestow complementary comments on the exceptional condition of your beloved bike.
As you head off – fed and watered – to complete your ride, the proprietor will check the weather forecast for you and perhaps pass on a bit of local knowledge about the wind direction or the condition of the roads, before waving you off.
And as you pedal happily along, basking in the sheer joy of riding your bike with this man, you look across at him and notice…surely, it can’t be right…he has no onboard computer, and a map in his back pocket…a real, paper map.
Could it be that there really is more to life than riding as far as you can, as quickly as you can, as often as you can get away with it.
If you push him, your friend will give you stories of times he has spent engaged in some of the hardest riding, clocking up the most tremendous mileage possible. The Quality Controller has done it all and got it out of his system, and is now committed to quality.
He doesn’t look down his nose at those who log mileage and engage in fevered competition with each other to the top of the next climb – he has lived that life – but knows now that his role in life is to ride quality miles, and pass on his serene knowledge to those who choose to listen.
So next time he gives you a ring and suggests a ride, don’t think about whether it fits with your training plan, or whether you’ll still be able to make your mileage for the week, just thank him and tell him you’d love to.
And enjoy the ride.