My cycle-centric social media feed was awash recently with images of steep tarmac, low cloud, and gurning cyclists suffering and paying for the pleasure. The scenery was spectacular. Belligerent sheep photo-bombed in the background. This can mean only one thing: the Fred Whitton Challenge 2021 has just taken place.
I was equal parts jealous and exquisitely comfortable with my feet up on the settee reading the Sunday papers.
This ride, for those of you who haven’t heard, is ‘proper’. A hundred-odd miles, a few thousand metres of climbing, and all the major Lake District passes en route.
Having ridden ‘The Fred’ a couple of times in pristine weather conditions I am only too aware that the law of averages will kick in at some point. The chances of my future third edition being accompanied by rain, hail, and wind are high. This is how it works. This is how Cumbria works.
The smart move on my part would be to hang up my special edition ‘Fred’ branded jersey and complimentary bag o’ bath salts (no, really!), get out while I’m ahead, and call it quits.
We’ll see how that pans out.
Being a North Lancashire native, of course, I’m very familiar with the likes of Hardknott, Wrynose, and Honister Pass. They’re just up the road. I’ll ride those passes at least once a year for ‘fun’. Without fail, each twenty-five percent hairpin and twelve percent ‘false flat’ has me bemoaning my lack of talent and musing on the finer points of power-to-weight ratio.
Approaching Wrynose with a group of riding buddys earlier this year we were grasping for the most marginal of gains.
“Right, last chance to delete some photos and clear out your inbox.”
“On your phone. You’re carrying all those megabytes in your memory. That’s just dead weight. It’s slowing you down.”
Ok, in about three minutes time my heartrate will be nudging 190bpm and spare oxygen for conversation will be at a premium, so let’s just park that random floating fact and come back to it shall we, I said, wordlessly, through the medium of gritted teeth and a pre-Wrynose thousand-yard-stare.
One by one we bent and arched ourselves up the climb, dragging our bikes beneath us like wrought iron, gravity, apparently, having one of its ‘heavy’ days. We skittered breakneck down the other side, weaved amongst the day-trippers along a valley road and found a cafe stop in the town of Coniston.
Coffees ordered, we broached this controversial addition to the lexicon of received cycling wisdom.
“That’s bollocks, obviously,” I said.
“S’true,” said my pal, “Google it. But make sure you delete your browsing history afterwards because, y’know…”
“Yeah, I get it, extra weight.”
I didn’t Google it, I Bing’ed it because I’m a rebel, and found that: a stored data byte does actually have a physical weight, albeit a very, very small one – around 1 attogram, which is one-quintillionth of a gram.
“OK, so technically you might be right…”
“…but, and I quote: the entire Internet – some 5 trillion terabytes, give or take a blog post or two – is estimated to weigh about 0.2 millionths of an ounce.”
“And your point is?”
“I’m watching you eat flap-jack right now.”
“Food is necessary. Energy, innit. Data is superfluous. Anything unnecessary will have a psychological impact,” he confirmed, pointing to his mind as if to indicate Zen like wisdom. “It’s a marginal just waiting to be gained.”
We finished our coffees, snaffled down our cake of choice, and readied ourselves for fifty more kilometres of unrelenting Cumbria. Largely dismissive of the performance impact of data storage. Furtively clearing songs, browsing history, and all but the most precious family photos from our phones just in case.