Being a cyclist is a bit like being part of club; not only do we have our own strange and archaic language and dress code, but we have to stick together in the face of constant attack from angry motorists, vicious winter weather, and an industry which forces us to consider re-mortgaging our house just to service our over-priced hobby. In the face of all this, it has always been my belief that apart from gently mocking each other from time to time, we cyclists should all stick together and get along.
With this in mind, I always make a point of saying hello to fellow riders out on the road, and try and make a bit of small talk or have a bit of a laugh and a joke; apart from anything else, it’s basic good manners. Out on a Sunday morning ride a couple of weeks ago I noticed I was catching a rider up ahead on one of the bigger climbs of the day. I reached him just as we crested the climb; the perfect opportunity to have a quick chat as we caught our breath on the gentle descent which followed – no meaning-of-life stuff, just a hello, a bit of small talk about the weather and where we’re both heading, and on we go.
But as I pulled alongside, almost before we had finished saying our hellos – no small talk – he’d hit me with this quadruple whammy:
“Just these heavy old wheels on the bike today, new ones are in the shop getting fixed. I’m much slower than usual today.”
“I’ve hardly been getting out much lately actually, been away for a couple of weeks with work so I’ve not been able to get the mileage in.’
“Do you do sportives? I did the Fred Whitton Challenge last year.”
“I used to race but I haven’t really got time for it anymore and anyway, I ride to enjoy it now so I’m not too bothered about being quick.”
Which, when spoken to you by a complete stranger and roughly translated, means:
“I am a serious rider and the reason you’ve just caught me on this hill is because I have very heavy and durable wheels, whereas you are clearly already using your quick summer wheels. I also haven’t been able to train very much recently which is another reason why I might appear to be a bit slow, but I’m serious rider, and when I’m able to train enough and I’m using my quick wheels I’m capable of riding the Fred Whitton Challenge which, as you’ll know, is over one hundred miles and very hilly…so as you can tell I am definitely a serious rider.
Anyway, in case you think I sound a bit insecure about the speed I’m riding and the impression this gives to complete strangers, you should be re-assured that I’m purely riding for the zen like enjoyment and am in no way concerned about how fast I ride, or appear to ride…because I used to race, you see, so again you understand that I am a serious rider…”
And there was me; just glad of a bit of company on a Sunday morning ride and up for a chat.
You could probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of days per year when I am riding as well as I feel I could be; to be honest, it’s all I can do most of the to stay focussed on propelling myself in the right direction, regardless of what anyone else might be doing. It hadn’t even occurred to me how fast this lad might be, or what his previous achievement on the bike might have been, but he obviously felt he had to get his excuses in.
If you’re the type to get competitive about your cycling that’s great, go ahead, I have my moments myself, but if you’re not competitive, or you’re a bit off the pace, or you just feel like having an easy day that’s fine too.
If some racing snake flies past you at twice your speed it doesn’t mean anything. Well, it means he’s faster than you today at riding a bike, but that’s all.