No-one likes a wheel-sucker: a cyclist who sits on your rear wheel, basking in your slipstream while you do all the work. It’s rude. But what if the guy on your wheel is the politest human in the western world?
I was battering along a nearby coastal road recently, maintaining a fair lick and feeling pretty pleased with myself, only to be jolted from my session of self-love by the appearance of a young lad – early twenties, maybe – in my periphery.
Christ, I thought, I’m being overtaken, proving yet again that I am neither as tough nor talented as I’d hoped. Damn this guy with his youthful looks and impressive power output.
This may seem like a lengthy thought to be having, off the cuff, but trust me: it’s very common.
Imagine my delight when I discovered he was gasping, breathless, and had only drawn level to utter the immortal words: Hi, how are you…gasp…sorry to bother you…pant…would you mind…puff…if I sat on your wheel for a few miles…
I’d be honoured, I thought, taken somewhat aback by the respect this young buck was showing.
“Help yourself mate,” I said, casually, as if this were a daily request.
I rattled along, close to my limit, for a few miles. Sneaking the occasional glance I could see he was there, limpet-like, as promised. I wrestled with conflicting and confusing emotions.
I hate this fucking guy, I thought, by now able to taste the lactic acid in my lungs as it rose up from my screaming legs*, and also what a lovely bloke, I continued to think, rage-appreciating the man’s fundamental common decency.
The cheek of it! Unbelievable! I wonder if he’s local…maybe we could become pals and riding buddies?
Ten minutes later, we approached traffic lights and the road peeled off left and right: he went left, I right, and he looked across and gave a cheery, innocent wave. Not the casual nod or underwhelmed hand-gesture of the grizzled cyclist but a lovely, open, thanks-ever-so-much goodbye.
There he goes, I thought, no doubt off in search of come other schmuck to take the piss out of.
I hope I see him again. He was lovely.
*I’m pretty sure the science checks out on that.
But oh – such joy when someone comes round you just a bit faster, you jump on their wheel and amazingly they show their true colours by slowing as they’ve used up their quota of energy and can’t sustain the overtaking speed. Smugly you sit just to one side and 6 inches behind silently sucking in air, trying to convince yourself -and them- you can hold the upping of pace. When the young buck turns off the gratitude is overwhelming, if for no other reason than the significant increase in average speed for that ride
Admittedly it doesn’t happen too often, but I don’t mind people slipstreaming me. I’m there to do exercise after all – their loss. Its quite nice when they are polite when doing so and are happy to take over after a crisp elbow flick (during one commute we managed to have a friendly peloton of four). Another approach I quite like is when they come level with you and you can have a nice chat.