What is it with cyclists? We say we want a holiday. Whilst most normal civilians then imagine themselves surveying sandy white beaches over cocktails, we cram our sweaty lycra into a plastic box around ‘the precious’. Then we grimace as our pride and joy - in its potential coffin - is loaded onto a plane, before settling into a week long sufferfest.
>>> The best bike bags and boxes for travel (opens in new tab)
And yet, we do it – and we love it. Except the moments we spend contemplating the most accidental-looking way of driving the bike off a nearby cliff edge (just me?!).
CW jetted off for a riding holiday recently with Volta Pro Tours in Portugal (opens in new tab). And as per all such trips, there were certain ‘moments’ we’ve come to expect…
Someone’s bike has mysteriously broken between home and the destination
‘I swear, it was fine when I put it in the box!’ they’ll claim. And yet, there’s no damage to the box – just a clearly very worn bearing that’s started to resemble a collection of beads used somewhere entirely different.
You’ll share stories of impending injuries
You think you’re the only rider arriving with an emergency foam roller, ibuprofen and ‘ICE’ number for the local physio saved in your phone. You get the excuses in early. Turns out everyone’s in the same boat.
Upshot: long miles in a group at low intensity will probably get blood pumping to all those little niggles, aiding recovery. Maybe.
There will be some logistical confusion
A lot can go wrong over hundreds of miles of riding. Like that wrong turn that took you on a 10 mile detour of the local dual carriageway.* Whatever it was - mistakes happen - it'll be annoying at the time and hilarious by the evening.
* To be fair, rather uniquely, we didn't take any major wrong turns, but it's hard to do when riding 500 miles along one road - the N2 (opens in new tab).
One rider will go off hard. And somehow maintain that pace.
Early on, you'll condemn this blatant arrogance, muttering something about the tortoise and the hare. But no, it turns out the rider off the front in the first five miles is just much, much fitter than you and can keep this up all week.
There will be a hangover in the peloton
It's a holiday after all? There will probably be several. Annoyingly the most thumping, alcohol ravaged head often belongs to the most impressive legs, and the key sufferer will somehow prove to be super human by getting up the climbs first regardless.
One rider will decide to get a massage. Everyone else will copy.
Massages: the only common ground our ‘holiday’ plans share with those of the normal human beings. One rider will book in - and no one wants to miss out on the potential marginal gain.
Of course, cyclist's rub-downs differ as they're administered by a ten tonne man with biceps the size of the turkey you now wish you'd not eaten at Christmas.
The ‘bollard’ / ‘taking photos’ / ‘showing off on a descent’ crash
The pre-ride briefing made it very clear that the LAST thing anyone wants is the nee-naw of sirens. There’s to be no ‘lookmumnohands’ moments, unless you move to the back of the group – and bollards must be pointed out.
Alas, it’ll happen, and a new catchphrase will be invented and repeated throughout the week amongst much hilarity (provided no one was actually hurt).
One day you’ll all work together
It'll probably be around day three or four - there are some weary legs in the pack and a hell of a headwind. Maybe even rain. Everyone will go very quiet, straight line frowns will adorn faces and you know all anyone can see is dancing hubs. This is how cyclists bond.
You’ll come home 1kg heavier, at least - with some weird looking tan lines
You've been eating whatever you like because 'hey, 100 miles a day!' Unless you've been very disciplined, you will be heavier. With tan lines that look like you've had an accident with a tanning spray gun.
Good news is, that weight will drop off after a day or two of normal eating - and in the mean time you can bore your entire family with stories of: 'This one time, on our training camp....'
After a few days of DOMS, you'll be at your fittest ever
You can expect to feel a but sluggish for a few days on return. However, when the fatigue has worked itself out of those legs, the overload effect means they're going to be as on-form as they'll be all year (unless you're already planning your next trip).
You’ll make friends for life
There were moments of suffering, moments of pure elation (the two largely determined by gravity and gradient). And you shared every one together. Post tour reunion planning will begin one month later.
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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.
Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor.
Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.
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