When I head out for Sunday morning ride with a few friends I’m not in the habit of issuing guidelines. No pre-ride agreements are signed, no gagging orders are in place, and any adherence to societal norms of behaviour is on a purely voluntary basis.
I don’t want to see my mates relieving themselves at the roadside, dropping litter, or wearing red bib-shorts any more than you do. But there’s very little I can do to stop any of this.
Occasionally, however, you’ve got to set some boundaries.
The global economy is still staggering around drunk, the internet feels more like the wild-west than ever, and politics strays further from the realm of the average person’s reality with every dubious speech and hastily signed executive order.
As a group of us met for a ride recently the next three hours was to be, by order of me, a politics free zone.
This is Sunday, I’d decided, and we’ve all had our fill of this for one week. It’s time for a day off, to appreciate the important (and less shouty) things in life.
Which immediately led to a fairly heated ten minute ‘debate’ about Donald Trump.
I issued some further clarity; that fake tan was banned, as was groping random women, blaming stuff on any group of people that aren’t white men, and using the Sunday morning group ride to further your own business interests.
And the next three hours proceeded largely peacefully.
I did observe a small splinter group off the back at one point, who had the tell-tale pained look of three men considering the merits of Jeremy Hunt and his plans for the NHS, but I let them off. It’s only natural that this man, and his questionable personal agenda on the provision of healthcare in the UK, should crop up in conversation.
The quality of generally available healthcare often springs to my mind when I’m deep into the effort of a big day on the bike – when my heart rate hits 190 bpm, thoughts naturally drift to heart attacks and acute chest pain.
The idea that I might fail to reach the summit of one of my local 15% climbs, and be let down by the NHS because of the meddlings of a man like Hunt is almost too much to contemplate.
But apart from the implications of my inevitable bike related death at some point in the next 40 years, our ride was completed with politics avoided.
And I can’t help thinking we were all the better for it.