If you’ve ever watched Top Gear (and may Chris Boardman have mercy on your soul), you’ll be familiar with the structure of a Jeremy Clarkson car review. They work one of two ways. The first is to start out with an explanation of why it’s the best car he’s ever driven, complete with smoking tyres and all the rest, and then say “but…” and explains why it’s actually terrible. The second method is exactly the same, just the other way around. The formulae never vary.
The same logic applies here. If I start out this column by saying I went out for a lunchtime ride last week, and it was a lovely day for February, that there was just the first hint of spring warmth, and that I felt rested yet sharp, you’ll know to look around for the incoming meteorite.
The day in question was just like that. It was simply delightful. But wherever I went, I was surrounded on the roads by psychopaths. Honking, spitting, swerving… all the usual.
Round the bend
The copper-bottomed highlight, and the point of this whole column, was a man in a large grey Audi. He attempted to get past on a blind bend, and had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting a car coming the other way. There followed a few more bends, which he clearly found very stressful indeed, because he flipped.
I was surprised at this, because it turned out he was a member of the SAS. I know because he wound down his window and shouted, “I’m in the SAS you ****.” And I’d been under the impression that the SAS were trained not to completely lose their minds at things like a 20-second delay in traffic. But there you are, you learn something every day.
Recalling simple pre-power meter training, the Doc laments that suffering isn’t as easy as it used to be
He shouted further, of his intention to follow me home, and to kill me and my family. I’d assumed that a covert organisation would favour something more subtle. But another lesson learned. He said he would accomplish this mass killing with his ‘piece’, which I imagine he was planning to hold sideways, like Ice Cube in Boyz n the Hood.
He drove along behind me for bloody miles, sounding the horn, revving the engine, raving about the SAS, and reiterating that he was going to kill me. He clearly had a much higher boredom threshold than I did, but I suppose that came from all the training.
After a while I stopped minding. Look at it this way, if he was actually going to kill me he’d have done it long since. And there was no danger of him running me down by accident either, since even if he could see nothing else on the road, he could certainly see me. And from a more general road safety point of view, no one else was conceivably going to fail to notice me — I was the cyclist with his own personal frothing psycho. Fluorescent jackets be damned, being followed around by a lunatic with a horn is how you draw attention to yourself.
He even added a few useful training miles, since I clearly wasn’t going to take him home. Though I was very curious about what would happen if I did. It seemed very unlikely that he was going to kill me, so he was going to have to climb down at some point. I thought about taking him to my friend Bernard’s house, on the basis that if he was going to kick any gnomes, he might as well kick Bernie’s.
But I didn’t.
Eventually I sneaked through an amber traffic light, and he stopped on the red. I mean, to a military man, killing is second nature but a red light is sacrosanct. He was probably more relieved than I was.
I must admit, I also suspect he might not actually have been a member of the SAS.