The Saturday before last, I had arranged to go for a ride with my friend Bernard. The agreed hour was 11am. What usually happens is that each of us sets out a bit before the appointed time, and rides towards the other’s house.
When we meet, we decide the rest of the route from there. To encourage sharp timekeeping the route is decided by whoever gets past the midway point between the houses first. It’s a remarkably well thought out system, for us at least.
On Saturday, the weather was horrible, and what was happening out the window was not remotely a match for what was forecast. At 10.45 I was in a lather of indecision. I checked my four favourite weather websites. I consulted the local weather observations. I looked out of the window at the thermometer on the back fence. I contemplated with care the rainfall radar.
Eventually I made a decision. Full winter jacket, autumn tights, heavy overshoes, spring gloves. The less ventilated of my two regular helmets, combined with a medium weight bandana. I stuck a waterproof gilet in my pocket.
I was so late getting out of the front door that I could see Bernard heading my way as soon as I got to the gate. He was wearing a short-sleeved jersey and shorts.
“You can’t be serious,” I said. I was cold already, and I was wearing about eight times as much as he was.
“It’s April,” he said.
“It’s 6.8 degrees. The most optimistic forecast model is only predicting 8.4 degrees by the end of the ride. The solar radiation is practically zero, there’s considerable wind chill, and a 35 per cent chance of rain.”
Kirkwood v Gregory XIII
“It’s still April, Einstein.
“Let me put it this way,” he continued. “Before you came out this morning, how long did you spend checking websites, looking at thermometers, and putting a ruler against your computer screen to try to measure how fast the rain on the radar was coming towards us?”
I mumbled something indistinct. It had been around the two-hour mark, as I’m sure he well knew.
“Well, all the time you were sitting on your backside pretending to be Carol Kirkwood, I was living life to the full.”
“You were pressing the snooze button repeatedly?”
“I certainly was. You see, in much the same way as you have sub-contracted your window cleaning to a window cleaner because you don’t want to spend the time doing it, I have subcontracted what to wear to Pope Gregory XIII and his Gregorian Calendar.
“It is April, that is the warm half of the year, so I wear shorts, and I ride my summer bike. I know you would rather spend two hours a day, every day, trying to decide what season it is based on your individual daily observations. But some of us don’t have that much time to waste.”
I told him that I didn’t care about Pope Gregory XIII and his thoughts on spring training; he was going to freeze to death. “If I get cold,” he said to me, slowly and carefully as if he was addressing an idiot, “I will ride harder. Much harder if necessary.”
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If only that was true. At least he’d get a spike in his fitness each spring. As it is, since he got to pick the route, what he did was lead me off on the ride that he feels offers the optimum ratio of cafe-time to riding-time, before stealing the gilet out of my pocket in the cafe and putting it on for the trip home.
It’ll be different next time. Next time I’ll make sure I leave the house early enough to get to the halfway point first. There is a very small risk that four hours in the Fens in April in a short-sleeved jersey will kill him. But there’s not a court in the land that will convict me.