I don’t want to sound paranoid, but I swear the rain clouds know who I am. And more to the point, where I am.
Just the other day, I used a rainfall-radar website (I have six bookmarked — just the ones I use regularly) to track an entire cold front as it followed me to the supermarket, waited while I did my shopping, and then followed me home.
I feel as if this has always been the case, though I’m sure it’s got worse recently. I suppose I should have made clearer that my enthusiasm for the Giro d’Italia’s Irish stages were in spite of, and specifically not because of, the rain.
But I’m afraid my unfocused cheerleading gave the clouds the wrong impression. That’s why it always rains on me; they think I like it.
Last week, after four solid days of everything from drizzle to thunderstorms, I may have mentioned this theory to Mrs Doc. I may have also said something along the lines of, but not quite as pathetic as, “Why do bad things always happen to me? I just want to go for a ride, get some training in, and try to have a nice time, but it’s bloody well raining again.”
Mrs Doc was all sympathy. “Has it never occurred to you to just go for a damn bike ride in the rain?” she said. I explained that I would get wet, and that this option was therefore very unattractive.
“Fine. Don’t go, then,” she said. “But I really ought to,” I said. “I’ll feel all guilty if I don’t.”
She tapped at her iPad for a moment, then showed me a picture of Dario Cataldo attacking on the Stelvio Pass in freezing conditions last week. His helmet vents were packed with snow from the blizzard. “You’re pathetic,” she said.
I feel, very strongly, that professional road racers are a problem. They set the bar of machismo unrealistically high. I don’t know how standard-issue, weak-willed bike riders such as myself are supposed to deal with the expectations those individuals generate.
Occasionally, I admit, when someone I’ve just met says, “I think it’s amazing when someone like you, having just been in a huge crash, jumps back on to their bike, with blood everywhere, and gets straight back to the race,” I may be prone to murmur modestly, “Well, it’s the way of our sport. We’re a pretty tough breed.” But, really, people should have more sense than to believe me.
Stop showing us up
The truth is that, if I fall off, I lie where I am while I conduct a full inventory of each and every bone in my body. Even if I’m in a race, frankly, it can go hang.
If someone were to suggest I get back on a bike while my wounds are dressed by a doctor hanging out of the back seat of a convertible, I’d tell them to catch themselves on and call me a proper ambulance — one with a bed in the back and a cupboard full of major-league painkillers.
I still reckon that for ‘normal’ riders one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen was my friend Bernard riding home undaunted after he’d slipped emerging from a cafe and sustained a compound fracture of the iPhone. Though, as he pointed out, “How else was I going to get home? I couldn’t exactly summon a taxi.”
So I hereby issue an appeal to the pro peloton. Next time the snow or the rain starts to fall, you’d be doing us all an absolutely huge favour if you stopped and sheltered in the porch of a church to ring your mums to ask them for a lift.
Acts of cycling stupidity
I tidied my toolbox last week. (This is not a euphemism.) I found the usual collection of cut-off cable-ends, wafer-thin used brake blocks, and fluff (how?).
I also found all the weird things — the spoke keys that fit no wheel known to man, the proprietary tools for adjusting God alone knows what, and the strange bits of plastic that could be anything from a fast-prototyped mock-up brake lever to a piece of redundant packaging.
I came across a strange, clear plastic tube. Slightly tapered at one end, with a plug in the other. Hexagonal, with a tiny and inexplicable hole halfway down one side. I stared at it, trying to work out if it was some sort of pump extender, or maybe to help with installing internal cables. I was thoroughly confused.
After about a minute, I realised it was a biro.
How to… climb
Remember one simple thing: riding uphill is exactly the same as riding on the flat, just slower. Embrace the slowness, attune it to your own level of fitness, and you will have no problems whatever.
Well, I say that. You’ll run out of gears eventually. It’s important to keep the final sprocket for emergencies, so you can have the comfort of knowing you’ve still got a last resort for as long as possible.
As the cadence drops, it often helps to imagine that you’re in a thrilling slow-motion replay of an epic bit of bike riding. Alternatively, you can amuse yourself by singing your favourite motivational song to yourself at 33rpm rather than 45. (A joke that will be incomprehensible to any reader under the age of 35 — if you understand it, the hill has probably already got you beaten.)
Remember that there is no cadence too low for a rider of elegance and souplesse. They can ride in a ruler-straight line up a one-in-four hill while still on the big chainring and pedalling at 2rpm.
But bear in mind also that there’s a very good chance that you are not such a rider, and that like most of us you’ll fall over sideways at around about 10rpm. Ideally when this moment arrives you’ll have saved enough energy to unclip, but don’t worry about it unduly. Just try to land on something soft, such as your training partner.
Whatever you do, don’t start zig-zagging from verge to verge. It’s undignified. You’d be better off walking and claiming to be a triathlete.
When Britain finally gets segregated cycle paths, we’ll also be hit with speed limits, reckons the Doc — and then