Andy Poulton has shared his story of cycling insanity, and has challenged members to share their stories too. So, why not pull a paragraph or two together and send it (either to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or via messenger). If you have photos then that’s even better!
I joined the Welland Valley last year after a short (15 year) break from club cycling with an enthusiasm tempered by being older and (allegedly) wiser. Now in my mid 50s, knee and hip ops and the sense that my years doing this might not be unlimited have made me be very specific about what will benefit me and what won’t as a rider. I’m kitted up and sensible, focused, sensible – did I mention sensible?
Recently, before national lockdown, my non-cycling 20 year-old nephew, fit and burly from rugby and farmwork said he and a mate had borrowed bikes and wanted to do a ride for charity. They didn’t know anything about cycling so wondered if I had any tips. They were thinking of Oxford to Lands End.
I tried very hard not to rain on their parade but quietly mentioned inexperience, specific fitness, distance, time of year, weather, temperature, closed campsites and prevailing winds. I also thought they might consider getting hold of some appropriate kit.
In short, I hoped they wouldn’t, but they did – admirably ignoring me and enduring biblical weather and hardship, raising thousands in the process. Chapeau.
And they have such tales. Risible stories of self-inflicted horror.
And this got me thinking about how soft (sensible) I’ve got and made me reflect on how most cyclists I know have flirted at some time (times?) with dangerous temporary insanity.
One not particularly youthful example from me:
After my very first 25, thinking that a 12 hour time trial couldn’t be that difficult, surely, I entered the National 12. Then suddenly getting the collywobbles a few days before the event I made myself ride 180 miles to ensure I could do it (never having ridden more than 50 before). Of course, couldn’t walk or pee the next day. Felt like a bag of spanners for a week. Then, enduring all manner of poorly recovered, poorly fuelled, poorly planned Calvary in the event itself I got myself into a state that left me unable to walk or pee for another 48 hours. Think I’m still aching from that, actually. Strangely, this is still my only 12 hour…..
But, as you can see, I can still remember this idiocy, can still bore you with it if you give me the chance (Best Unsupported Rider prize, 2000 National 12 hour!) and even value this memory at a time of increasingly self-protective prudence. It’s this weird stuff that feels like an unscientific, uncivilized pre HRM, pre watts achievement.
Which got me thinking, that though this seemed like an extreme case of folly to me, I’m in a cycling club again – which means I just know that fellow members must have similar or probably much worse tales of ordinary madness: tales of pain, endurance, absurdity and above all else a stunning capacity not to plan, prepare or think things through. Bonus points awarded for hospital stays and/or loss of control of bodily functions.
So, make me feel better. Tell your story.