'Do you Mrs Specialized take notinthepeloton, to be your sole rider, to ride and ride from this day forward, for better or rustier, for inflation and deflation, in repair and in good nick, til a puncture rips us apart and its only when we get home do we call it a truce?!' Its wedding year in the household and without giving too much away, like a bad John Snow rumour, theres bound to be some cycling element somewhere on the day! Can not confirm though as the missus will make sure the bike is a sacrifice to the Lord of Light, for the night is long and full of strava segments!
Growing up, we all had a bike at some point which became our vehicle to freedom to the early stages of the social ladder, our little bike crews rolling the streets like a younger version of 'The Warriors'. I used to borrow my Nan's fold up bike to roll to the park on (lot of street cred' with that high roller!), massive lumpy thing it was, I vividly remember catching the skin from one of my fingers in one of the springs so we didn't always see eye to eye. Another memory was about 10 of us having a street race down one of the back roads, I had opted for the pavement (it was legal then) and was surrounded by a couple of girls who had entered this prestigious event. Once the commissaire waved us off (it was actually just a classic 'ready steady go' from one of the boys who already had pulled away!), spinning those pedals as fast as we can, we had all bombed off. Just picture the first race scene from The Fast and Furious and it was nothing like that! We were all very tightly bunched up in the pavement peloton but suddenly one of the girls broke and I smashed into her back wheel and she had toppled over! Tears were made, a few words exchanged and that was the end of the race for me. My Tour de Kew was over. I was then caught doping, they had found traces of Highland Toffee and Space Raiders in my system and was thrown off the circuit. I lost my sponsors Mario Kart and Subbuteo and had to move house to get away from all the unwanted media attention!
I had found a mistress in football through my teenage years which was carried on to semi-pro level something I am proud of and glad I done but looking back, the culture of football is just one big social experiment. Walk into any team, you'll find your usual piss takers, some who believe they are way better than they are and some who just get the job done. Once you've grown up a bit and realise how people can manipulate each other and have different agendas to your own, you realise some things are not worth the effort. If you throw me into a football team now, I'd mentally crack through the frustration of people just being people, something which you find common in every day life. Road users experience it every day with people behind the wheel or those on the bike that you just shake your head to and wonder how have they arrived to that decision of pulling out on you at a junction or jumping a red light giving everyone else the ammo to throw at the masses?! My own teenage experiences on the bike were again negative. I am starting to wonder whilst I'm typing this what point I am making here? Was supposed to be my affection for the bike but I just remember incidents! I had requested a bike for Christmas in my later school years and instead of buying me an ordinary looking bike that I could blend in, my Maw (I am marrying an Irish lady so forgive my cross-contamination of lingo!) bless her brought me a bright near luminous orange bike. I knew straight away what reaction this would bring at school. 'My eyes, my eyes' would be a common one when I rode through the school gate! 2 days I gave it then told my Maw never again! Looking back, I sound like a horrible brat and if you gave me the same coloured bike now, I wouldn't bat an eyelid (probably because I couldn't thanks to the military grade luminous painted frame!).
The other unfortunate incident was an innocent little go on my mates mountain bike which was a bit pricey at the time. Considering my experience with bikes at the time was very minimal, remembering which one was the front brake was my downfall. Rolling up to a little speed bump on Ham Common, I pulled the front brake which must of been equipped with Hummer style brake pads as my ass flew up in the air and I had flipped over the bars and landed on my face! I was a bit dazed on the grassy verge and all I heard from my mates was 'He's only come off!' I had also smashed my mates bike computer (some early form of Garmin) so he wasn't very happy. I then proceeded to achingly ride another bike I had borrowed at the time all the way home with blood pouring from my knee and hip. So this love for the bike is persuasive isnt it?!
I had mentioned before in a previous blog that I first entered the world of road cycling through a triathlon (another example of me coming off!) but regardless of the outcome (my time wasn't exactly record breaking!) the bike gave me an avenue for my inner self to fulfil its need to push and succeed. I loved the fact that all the work I had put into pushing that bike forward was down to me. I was never a great sprinter and was never a Mo Farah of long distance running but I was ok at both which was why football suited me because I could apply my physiological makeup in different areas. So finding an activity which could eclipse the length of a football match but also have testing moments where you need to put the hammer down whether it be on a hill or short flat between lights, it appealed to me.
I also enjoyed the freedom it gave me. I was sticking to roads I knew at first and thought hitting 30miles was some feat. I kept to the same route and wore the same oufit which was my torn tri-suit thanks to my rain caused crash! I remembered being laughed at by a couple of blokes in a white van (how stereotypical!) but weren't bothered. I'm older, I've chosen to do this and I am enjoying this. First attempt with clip in pedals, my family all stood my the window and cracked up laughing when I again, fell over. Now, they are amazed when they here about my 9 climbs of Box Hills or mine and @RouteSurreyUK's legendary 143mile ride to the coast and back. For me, its looking back on the ride and accomplishing something. My only bug bear with cycling is headwind. I can tolerate rain, I sometimes ride better in it. But a headwind, I couldn't think of anything more frustrating. Knuckle down and keep those legs spinning, a headwind can be beaten.
And theres the joy. The accomplishment of knowing that the sole effort is down to you. You haven't relied on 10 team mates who all have their own little egos to serve. Its you, the bike and the elements. Nothing more, nothing less. Just ride.
'Ride as much or as little, as long or as short as you feel. But ride.'