Do you remember the Olympic road race? Well, I can exclusively reveal why it was such an odd day’s competition. Why the Germans didn’t even attempt to do any work.
Why the tactics were so turgid. Why some well-known riders were well below par, why everyone looked so pained and most of all why Alexander Vinokourov was, for once in his life, delighted to see a dope-control officer with a nice big sample-jar after he crossed the line.
The riders were all bursting for a pee, every single one of them. And it’s all your fault. A sheepish rider exclusively revealed to this column that the sheer number of spectators along the course meant there was nowhere even slightly private for the bunch to answer nature’s call.
The only empty spot was on the climb of Box Hill, and anyone who stopped there could be confident of never seeing the race, or a national jersey with their name on it, ever again. So with bladders like space-hoppers inflating under them, they all soldiered on.
One of my favourite pull-out posters from the Cycling Weekly collection also features peeing. It was a lovely, technicolour spread of a Tour bunch, riding easy, and tightly packed together in the early part of a stage. It must have looked wonderful when the designer picked it.
I’m guessing he was working with a transparency. Full size it was hard to miss the yellow jersery wearer – Bjarne Riis – in the middle of the picture peeing onto the verge as a team mate pushed him along. Still, at least his modesty was easily preserved by the centre staple – though he may have regarded that as bit of a mixed blessing.
I once read an article in a magazine – not this one, I think – about how to pee on the move. I imagine it was aimed principally at men, because the second bullet heading (after, I promise you, ‘Three Ways to Tell if you Need to Go!’) was ‘Liberate the Penis!’ I tend to feel it was written by an American, since any other English-speaking nationality would have called that bit ‘Rummage and Pull’.
(Curiously, either heading could do service as the title of a college Freshers’ Week club-night.) I thought then, and think now, that if you need bullet point instructions on how to pee, you’re not yet ready for unsupervised urination.
It’s not normally so much technique that puts men off the manoeuvre, as the possibility of arrest. Some shy-bladdered riders will actually go to surprising lengths to avoid causing outrage. One day, a few years ago, my friend Bernard turned off one of his regular training roads into an obscure dead-end, looking for somewhere private.
About a mile along, he found a very secluded gateway. On the other side of the gate was an abandoned car back-seat, with a fine view over the valley. He relieved himself against a satisfyingly resonant bit of fence, hopped over the gate, and sat down for a rest. He enjoyed this whole experience so much that he started to make it an unvarying feature of his rides. I think he felt that he was establishing some sort of legal easement.
Keeping everything crossed for a road race win
It ended tragically. He arrived there one day to find a total stranger, with a bike, reclining on the seat, his rummage-and-pull not so much at liberty as at large. Their mutual horror was such that they both screamed, and tried to make a run for it. The embarrassment was complete when they had to ride side by side down the lane, while trying not to acknowledge each other’s existence.
Bernard has never stopped for a pee on a ride since.
How To… Adjust
The rule here is that a gentleman adjusts, and a scoundrel fixes. Adjustment is about the further refinement and perfection of something that is already in excellent working order. Fixing implies that something was broken, through perhaps negligence or incompetence. And we all know that a gentleman would never suffer either of these imposters.
Notwithstanding that, I did last week witness a gentleman, suffering under these straitened financial times, adjusting a bent crank with a lump hammer and a stream of curses like an invading Viking.
Adjustment is a slow, delicate process. It normally commences by loosening something with an allen key. If the allen key socket strips in the attempt to loosen it, you may safely conclude that perfection was already attained, and no adjustment is needed.
Ensure you know what bolt or screw is responsible for adjusting what. Many is the gentleman who has mistaken his rear gear’s limit screws for each other, and consequently on his next jaunt adjusted all the spokes in his back wheel into tangled spaghetti.
The final secret to adjustment is to work in fine gradations. Anything more than 2mm at a time, or a quarter of a turn, is fringing into repair. For most, adjustments should actually be much less than this – it’s normally best for the bicycle’s continued functionality if they’re too small to actually make any difference other than to give them allen key wielder the warm glow of mechanical competence.
Acts of Cycling Stupidity
I used to live in a small block of eight flats in South London. There was a residents’ board meeting every year. At one of these another flat owner complained that instead of locking my bikes to the railing beside the street, I always carried them up to my flat.
Specifically, she said, there was a gouge in one of the skirting boards on the stairs that she was quite sure I’d done with a bike. I denied this. There was an argument.
Eventually got a bike, and asked her to show me (and the rest of the meeting) how it was possible to damage a skirting board on a stair tread with a bike. After several minutes of her maintaining it was possible to gouge wood with a tyre, the meeting overruled her. ‘I know it was you,’ she said. ‘I bet you’ve got a special bike for damaging skirting boards.’ And she absolutely meant it.