Road biking can be a tremendously sociable way to spend your time. When the weather is good, and the roads are quiet, you find yourself cruising along with a bunch of mates and happily chatting away, winding each other up, or talking nonsense. Throw in a café stop half way around and you’ve got yourself a very enjoyable, and very civilised way to spend an afternoon.
But we all have those day’s on the bike when, for whatever reason, it’s just not happening. We can’t quite muster the usual reserves of strength, our energy levels have dipped, and we’re mentally beaten before we get started. Sometimes, the sensible option is to ride solo and comfortably cruise along at your own pace, wallowing in your lack of vim and vigour. If you make the bold choice to ride with your usual group of mates when feeling like this, chances are you’ll be off the pace.
It’s a simple admission of failure and weakness to find yourself muttering apologetically, “sorry lads, I’m a bit off the pace today”, and usually by the time you utter these words you are simply stating the obvious.
Everyone can see that you’re the weak link, a couple of the kinder souls have tried to gee you up and lift your spirits, but before long you’re holding everyone up and dropping back. At some point an unspoken conclusion is reached, and the cold Darwinian response from your mates will be to drop you like a dead weight, and maintain their pace until you are but a speck in the distance (which at least gives you a bit of peace and quiet and the chance to slow to a more manageable tempo).
But being ‘off the pace’ suggests that, at some point presumably fairly recently, you were ‘on the pace’. So what happened? Where did your pace go and why are you off it? What if it’s more than just a bad day? How many bad days in succession before your ‘bad day’ is simply your ‘day’. How many times can you be ‘off the pace’ before you are just demonstrating your ‘new (slower) pace’.
There are plenty of excuses out there, and any number of valid reasons for being slightly slower than you should be, but the key to a good excuse is that it has to be the exception and not the rule.
If you overdid it on the real ale, or got carried away with a crate of Rioja the night before, that’s fine; no one expects you to live like a monk. Maybe the kids kept you up half the night and you’re pedaling in a sleep-deprived haze? That’s par for the course for a family man. But if you turn up for your weekly ride and trot out a freshly laundered excuse every week this will get tiresome.
It’s true that clocking up serious mileage on the bike in an attempt to get fit is a time consuming business, and we all have lives to go to, but even the busiest most sociable family man out there needs to be able to turn up fresh and firing every couple of weeks and dish out some pain. Drop off the pace too often and a civilised way to spend an afternoon quickly becomes a grim and gritty battle for survival…
…and through choice or necessity, you might find yourself riding alone.