Dr. Hutch: It’s behind you… the lost art of looking back

Still reeling from having nearly witnessed the inadvertent poleaxing of a knight, the Doc calls for a more forward-thinking approach to backwards-looking

Upcoming events

I proudly present one of this column’s occasional flirtations with the provision of useful information to make your riding safer and more comfortable. So come in and sit down. I’ll stand at this lectern at the front of the lecture room, while at the back my lovely assistants Sandra and Jeff will seductively remove all their clothes and re-enact their favourite scenes from Fifty Shades of Grey.

You see what you did there? The way you instantly looked at the back of the room using that amazing swivel-mounted thing that’s at the top of your neck? Well, that’s what we’re talking about today. We are going to discuss the lost art of bloody
well looking behind you.

“Why would I want to do that?” you ask. Well, you’ll recall that a few weeks ago I rode a sportive event in the elevated company of Sir Chris Hoy. It was memorable for many reasons, very few of them reflecting well upon me. But one memorable moment occurred when, not many kilometres in, someone on the right-hand side of the group and just in front of us abruptly turned left, forcing (among others) Sir Chris to brake heavily to avoid a pile-up.

Clearly no one would mind if you knock me off my bike, but if I remember the details of the Treason Act correctly, knocking a knight off his bike means Her Majesty will dispatch the Household Cavalry to beat you to death with a track pump. It will be a very shiny track pump, and your death will be the next day’s lead in the Daily Express, but you will not be in a position to appreciate these things.

You can look behind you by doing this: turn your head, and swivel your eyes in the same direction until you can see behind you. You’ll recognise “behind you” when you see it, because it will look quite a lot like “in front of you”, but with the trees and houses and suchlike getting smaller rather than larger. You won’t be able to see how you’re doing on your current Strava segment for a second or two, but that will make the sight of your computer all the sweeter when you turn to face the front again.

Rear view virtues
Once you’ve mastered the art, you will find the benefits are almost endless. You’ll be able to see whether you’ve dropped your riding partner without having to keep asking — always embarrassing when you ask for the 20th time in two miles and he’s still breathing through his nose.

You’ll be able to check whether the soft moaning noises you can hear are indeed coming from someone who’s hopped onto your wheel, and is now suffering as they deserve to for this act of lèse majesté; if not, the moans are coming from you.

If your sunglasses fall off your helmet you’ll be able to watch that amazing £200 worth of plastic that rendered you indistinguishable from Bradley Wiggins being reduced to splinters by a car.

It’s behind you…
I admit there are some downsides. You may well see the word “Volvo” in huge letters, and getting bigger every moment. Or you may see, in extreme close-up, another rider whom you didn’t have the faintest idea was there, and emit a high-pitched squeak of surprise — and trust me, no subsequent amount of manly bike riding will ever compensate for that.

But most likely is that you’ll just see things that add to the pleasure of your own and everyone else’s day. Like Sir Chris Hoy. Or maybe even me. And then you’ll be able to avoid sweeping either of us into a ditch. And we’ll all like that
very much.

 Acts of Cycling Stupidity

Word comes to the column of a bike shop mechanic dealing with a customer who had a query about the gluing on of tubular tyres. “I upgraded to tubulars,” said the customer, “But I’m worried they haven’t stuck very well.”

The mechanic initially thought this unlikely, since there was glue all over both rims and tyres. Yet the tubs came off very easily. Not, in truth, all that surprising, since what the customer had (quite remarkably) attempted to do, with the aid of not just glue, but also both tub tape and rim tape, was glue a pair of tubular tyres onto a clincher rim.

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