I’m not a Strava user. I really can’t see the attraction in using a website to shout about my every footling bike ride or trivial athletic achievement to a generally indifferent audience, who are only ever going to be looking at it in the first place because they’re bored and are supposed to be working.
I’ve got the back page of Cycling Weekly for doing that.
However, last week, when I was bored and supposed to be working, I was noodling around on the Strava site. I checked the fastest time for a long draggy road I often use on training rides.The record was rather good — about my best time, I reckoned. I checked another circuit I use. The same rider held the record. Again, the time was very similar to mine.
I noticed that this guy, who used what was clearly a pseudonym, often trained around the times I did, and often on the same roads. In fact, he held the Strava records for almost all of my regular routes.
Looking through my training diaries, I found that all the records had been set on days when I’d been riding on the roads in question. It was weird. Why had I never seen him? Surely I should have run into him at some point. Who the hell was he?
At that point the doorbell rang. As I went to answer it, I noticed a very familiar bike leaning against my garden fence. The penny dropped.
“This guy held the records for almost all my regular routes”
“Bernard!” I roared, and opened the door. “You double-dealing, Strava-segment stealing, two-faced excuse for a training partner!” “I’m sorry?’ he said. “Strava? Is that a kind of pasta sauce?”
“You know damn well what it is. Would I be right in assuming that after every ride we do, rides where you spend your time on my wheel moaning that we’re not going fast enough, but never, ever doing a turn yourself, you go home and upload it to Strava?”
“What if I do?” he asked. “It’s not as if you wanted the segments, since you think you’re too good for Strava. Those records are the kind of things people like you toss aside. And people like me pick them up. Like these arm-warmers that you didn’t want. There’s years of life in them yet.”
Right enough, the little sod was wearing the brand new arm-warmers I’d been turning the house upside down to find for the last month. But I knew he’d only mentioned them to distract me from the real issue. I gave him a hostile glare.
“What’s more,” he continued to say to me, “I could have had those segments fair and square.”
“Are you trying to tell me it was just a coincidence that I was six inches in front of you for all of them?” I replied.
“Well, yes,” he said, “I only ride with you because normally I enjoy the company.”
“Really? You find my backside seen through a veil of your own tears to be a congenial sight?”
“Most Strava segments are set in groups anyway,” Bernard replied. “They’re a collective endeavour.”
“This from a man who hasn’t pulled a clear turn on the front since 2009? There’s a bit of a difference between ‘collective endeavour’ and ‘wheelsucking’.”
But I was aware that I sounded more than a bit peevish by this point. I also realised I’d been outsmarted again. There was no way Bernie was going to delete his blazes of glory through the lanes of Cambridgeshire. And it was petty of me to even want him to.
The arm-warmers, on the other hand. Well, he’d brazenly raised the issue, and I’d very cleverly ignored it because I thought it was a trap. But as he sauntered back down the path to his bike, it was suddenly very clear that I was never getting them back.
Last weekend my family and I went on a day trip, by car. We had lunch in a nice cafe, and afterwards went for a walk round the town. I found a bike shop, with a fantastic deal on a new Cannondale. So I bought it on the spot.
When we all met up at the car later, I explained to my wife that since the bike was going to have to go on the back seats, she and our youngest were going to have to take the train home. She was very, very angry. Please reassure me I did nothing wrong.
Anon of Sheffield
Anon, I think all of Cycling Weekly’s readers would grant you absolution. Though it’s only fair to point out your wife is presumably right now writing to the Daily Mail women’s page and being told to get the hell out of the marriage.
How to… make your chain fall off
There are numerous ways to make a bike chain fall off. One is to change gear over a rough piece of road. This is why really rough pieces of road are always at the bottom of hills.
Another is to go for a ride with someone you want to impress.
A chain that’s stayed firmly put for a decade will fling itself onto the bottom bracket shell if you go on a charity ride with Sean Kelly. A bicycle, like a small child, loves nothing so much as to embarrass you.
When the chain derails, be sure to pedal quickly and stupidly against no resistance for a moment. Then try frantically to get it back on by waggling the front gear changer. While you do this, you have a critical calculation. As your momentum runs out, you have to work out the odds of one last panicky waggle working, versus the risk of you stopping altogether and not having time to put a foot down.
A final option is to reach down and try to replace the chain with your hand. This has the added comic potential of getting your hand trapped between chain and chainring. It’s especially hilarious if this happens on a fixed gear, since the revolving crank will rip your hand off the end of your arm and you’ll have to take it home in a jersey pocket.
With over 250,000 miles of Great British roads to choose from, and even more nitpicking fans to keep happy, the