As a cyclist, choosing a riding partner can be a tricky business. But whatever factors you consider when selecting who to share your Sunday morning with, there is one question more than other that will determine what kind of time you are going to have:
How fast are they?
Not that you should avoid riding with people who are quicker than you, of course – after all, this is a sure way to improve your own fitness levels and learn some important lessons about the noble art of suffering by bike – but it’s a bit like getting your ears syringed; it will be really unpleasant at the time, but worth it later.
A word of warning though: a certain level of self-assurance is required to cope with being physically dominated by a fellow human being. If you arrive home post-ride only to lock yourself in the bathroom for a little cry, then you need to re-consider whether you possess the required mettle to cope with this.
To help you deal with this weekly annihilation your best defence is to identify the weakness of your riding companion, and balance things up by finding that area where you are clearly their master.
Perhaps you are practical and mechanically savvy, and can use this to remind them of their inability to carry out even the most basic of repair jobs? Maybe you are wittier and more intelligent and can run rings around them in conversation? Or is it a simple superficial equation? If you are lucky they might possess a face which, although it’s perched atop the body of a cycling god, resembles that of the elephant man (or woman).
That is clearly your way in.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill: “after a few more rides with you, my friend, I will be quicker, whereas you will always be ugly.”
Of course this recourse to personal insult does you no credit and can only go on so long; it’s a temporary arrangement until the day you match, and finally beat them. But if time rolls by and you show no signs of catching them up or, heaven forbid, find yourself lost ever deeper in their imagined vapour trails, you have two final options open to you.
You can become sanguine in the face of your weekly humiliation and retreat into a state of permanent self-deprecation. You are essentially saying, “yes, I’m slower than you are, but that’s just the way it is and I can live with it.”
This is fine, to a point, but is ultimately a very polite and well behaved way of conceding total defeat.
Alternatively you can sever all ties and find someone else to ride with. Someone slower than you, ideally. But beware, as even this has its pitfalls. The key to riding with someone slower than you is to completely disregard any mitigating circumstance they may have for being slower.
If you take into account the fact that their bike is an old steel wreck weighing several kilos more than yours, or their kids ensure they never manage more than two hours unbroken sleep at any one time, or they are so busy helping old ladies across the street and volunteering at the local donkey sanctuary that they can’t find the time to train anymore, then your advantage is lost.
Taking into account these circumstances is essentially opening a door to the possibility that, given better luck and a fair crack at it they might be quicker than you, and that is not an avenue you want to explore.
Leave their potential well alone.
If you’re riding with someone slower than you it’s because you are strong, they are weak, and the guy you used to ride with who is immeasurably quicker than both of you is, to all intents and purposes, dead to you.