Being a cyclist is a bit like being part of club; not only do we have our strange behaviour and archaic language and dress code but we stick together in the face of near 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 stick together and get along.
Apart from being one of the few scenarios when we’re not engrossed in the content of our iPhones, saying hello to fellow riders out on the road and engaging in a spot of small talk is basic good manners.
On a recent Sunday morning ride I noticed I was catching a rider up ahead on one of the bigger climbs of the day. We met 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.
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.”
“Hardly been getting out much lately actually.”
“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. I ride to enjoy it now…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.
I was tempted to reply that you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of days each year when I’m riding well…to be honest, it’s all I can do most of the time to keep myself propelled in the right direction…
But I didn’t.
Yes indeed, “I’d normally kick your butt, but today is a recovery ride”… First thing I want to hear at the start of a non-idle chat.
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