I went to Wales. Alone. Well. Not alone, but without my family. That hasn’t happened in a long time. Going away without my family that is, I’ve been to Wales a couple of times. Llangollen. Cardiff. Barry Island. I’ve been everywhere in Wales me.
The last time I went away on my own, away from my family to continue labouring the point here, was to my mate’s stag do. Which was somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Yorkshire. I think. Maybe. No. Hang on. Staffordshire? It was pretty great. Live noise/metal gig, stag in a cat suit playing drums, refreshing conversation. There was a football match as well. I think.
Anyway, Wales. It involved bikes, riding them, talking about riding them, reading about other people riding them, reading about other people who designed races for other people to ride bikes in. And some science fiction stories. With illustrations by Chris Foss. stuff like this:
What I found out was that Caersws is surrounded. By hills. And wind. That blows from every direction, giving you no respite. And inducing panic on downhills.
I also found out that slim fit Edwin jeans are no good for cycling in. At all. They were fairly awful to cycle in on the first day. They were awful to cycle to the pub in. And they were fucking painful to ride back to the station on the last day, in the rain.
What I got from this weekend was a complete break from London and riding bikes in and near London.
Apart from the obvious, quiet, no traffic, there was a strange mutual respect between road users. I got given plenty of space, when I moved over and stopped to let bigger vehicles past I was acknowledged. C R A Z ZZ EEE eh?
The roads were in pretty spectacular shape, I got to see things like this:
Which was fairly scary. There were also lots of incidents of “WOAH” when the wind started gusting and actually impeded forward motion. Or caught my front wheel and gave me the speed wobble on a descent.
There were only two of us who went out there, and each of our own personal strength on a bike is probably the other’s weakness. I’m rubbish at going downhill fast and I’m fairly rubbish at going fast on a flat. I am quite good at going up. It’s quite hilly in Wales.
There was a general agreement I’d get to the top first and not push on going down, this worked really well. There was a really liberating experience about 10 miles from home where I knew I would be able to push on after the last hill (there’s always one more hill to go) and not have to worry about Dan. Which was good really, as I’d finished all my food, had started to see stars when I blinked, and more worryingly had begun to think about myself from an external commentators viewpoint. These three things together generally indicate I’ve not got long to go before I get “the knock“.
I think what I took most from the weekend was that cycling doesn’t require you to drink the raphakool-aid and believe cycling is suffering and pain; it’s actually about recognizing what you are good at on a bike and what you’re not. It’s about identifying those areas and preventing them from affecting the enjoyment of another person’s experience. I don’t race, really. There’s no value in me getting up a hill quickly, waiting around, tutting and sighing and moaning at someone else. Especially if I descend like a nun on a bike.
There’s a lot of talk about suffering and epicness, and how much a ride hurt. Or how deep in to the “hurt locker”, “pain cave” or “wardrobe of self doubt” you went. I just don’t think it’s worth talking about in terms like that, when/if you’re not racing a bike. For cash. Or a free cup of tea when you hand your number back in at the village hall.
If you’re just riding a bike with mates, shouldn’t it just be about understanding what makes them tick? And what they enjoy/are good at? Why would you want to stop your mates from having fun on a bike?