I have been accused, by those closest to me, of being a fair-weather cyclist.
This is harsh. I’ve ridden my share of winter rides. I’ve pedalled through the shivers, changed punctures claw-handed in the snow, and cried in the post-ride shower. I’ve got nothing to prove.
The criticism stings.
Ironically, like the frozen sideways rain of a northern November morning.
It seems my name no longer brings to mind the sepia-toned glory of a wintery Rapha ad. Fortunately, I have a thick skin. It’s windproof, and waterproof, and made by Pearson Cycles.
And so it was that I pulled on my overshoes, supped the dregs of a final espresso, and peered out of the kitchen window. Where twenty minutes earlier there was undoubtedly enough blue sky to make a Dutchman a pair of trousers* there was now none.
In fact there was rain, carried sideways by wind, and surrounded by a blanket of murk.
The weather was clearly going nowhere (other than into every crack and crevice of my body) fast. Last week I may – may – have bailed out at this point, but I feel compelled to meet accusations of fair-weather-ism head on.
Teeth were gritted, loins were girded, questioning raised eyebrow emoji texts from my riding buddy were ignored, and I pedalled out into the breach. We met up, made gallows humour, and resolved to do the local loop.
We’ll see how it is. A euphemism for I’m not gonna be the one to cancel…are you?
I was reminded of things that happen on mucky winter rides.
You get a lot of time to think. To dwell on how cold it is. There’s a wooden lack of feeling in fingers and toes, and the deterioration of fine motor skills. You’ve spent the last half hour in the same gear and you haven’t braked for thirty K’s.
Hands like lumpen hooks.
Once the gallows humour has run dry it’s replaced by stony silence. You’ve each retreated to an inner world where a personal survival strategy is in progress. Mine, for the record, invokes the spirit of 2013 Milan-San Remo winner Gerard Ciolek.
That being one of the all-time mucky winter rides.
Tucked amongst this silent progress is a band-of-brothers team spirit.
You’re surviving, in your own quiet way, but with the occasional thought of your riding buddy and how they’re coping. You’re alone, but in it together. Taking turns on the front, the whole world shared in a nod or a grunt.
Mileage done (for that is all it is – a bike ride suggests pleasure) you approach home and part your separate ways. An attempted handshake becomes a botched fist bump ends up a mangled tangle of frozen fingers.
It says well done mate…that was cold, eh?
And off you go.
And that shared moment of frozen friendship kind of makes it worth it.
So look out for me – no longer the fair-weather cyclist – in future sepia toned wintery Rapha ads. I will be playing the part of stoical and bearded semi-veteran, riding in defiance of the cold but with the unmistakeable bearing of a man who knows he’ll be forking out for the mid-ride coffees.
I’m a natural for the role.
*I dunno….it’s a nautical thing apparently!?