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.