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Faster – faster – faster……
Ride faster, ride faster; ride faster!
Whether you’re aware of it or not, if you ride a road bike, this phrase will be etched into your psyche!
Red blooded males are peculiar creatures, we all have a mind-set that we’re born with but as we grow we are more and more influenced in the way we think by the things we become passionate about; Politicians for instance find they argue – whether they agree or not whilst art collectors are compelled to haggle over price – even if they believe they are already getting a fair deal.
Cyclists (particularly road riders) by their very nature, feel the need to show the world that they are worthy of riding their bicycle. To a cyclist, shaving their legs, wearing Lycra and smothering their undercarriage with minty fresh lubrication is just three steps closer to becoming a pro rider – rather than some sordid way of satisfying their need to become Lola, a second rate drag queen who’s hoping to get lucky on a Saturday night.
Of course, that doesn’t sound like you; does it? Well….let’s re-live a typical Sunday morning ride.
Who goes there…..?
You’re feeling a bit sluggish from last night’s curry; your legs are a bit achy from Friday’s train journey where you had to stand all the way and to top it all off is the realisation that sitting on that razor sharp saddle after the morning’s ablutions is going to remind you that a korma may have been a better idea than the Jalfrezi. As you clip in and start to roll down the road you’re thinking to yourself, “I’ll have a nice steady one today, no need to go mad, let’s just get the miles in”.
The next bit is always a bit of a blur; You meet your usual cycling buddies, agree the course and off you all go settling in to a well-honed pace line. It’s not long before you’re out of town and into the country lanes and life doesn’t get much better; the fresh air is hitting your face, the drone from the running gear of all the bikes in line join together to make an almost hypnotic symphony. You spare a wave of acknowledgment to the likeminded cyclists coming the other way who sometimes wave back, sometimes just nod or sometimes just blank you all together. But you know what; it doesn’t matter because we have nothing but respect for our fellow blade jockeys, these guys are our friends for one very simple reason; they are coming the other way! You see, whether we choose to admit it or not, fellow cyclists are split into two clear groups, those coming towards you (your friends) and those going the same way (your competition). With this in mind let’s get back to the ride.
You’re about half way through your 60 mile route and everything is up to speed nicely, the pace has settled into a steady one and everyone is doing their turn on the front. You take the lead as your buddy in front gives you the knowing elbow and pulls to one side; you take a deep breath, settle down on the drops and concentrate on keeping the pace steady for the team. Then, with your eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead you catch a glimpse of colour in your peripheral vision – just above the frame of your shades. Could it be other riders going the same way you think to yourself? As quickly as your brain works out that this is indeed the case and that there are three of them, you subconsciously feel your buddies closing in behind to take up any slack in the pace line which means only one thing; They’ve seen them too!
Resistance is futile……
Now, this is the weird bit! For some reason the three riders ahead of you start to suck you in towards them; like Darth Vader’s Imperial command ship drawing in Han Solo’s helpless Millennium falcon. “Ride faster, ride faster, ride faster” echoes in your head. Soon, you find yourselves sitting on the wheel of the last man in their group and, as first man in yours, you now have two tricky decisions to make: (1) should you overtake? (2), assuming that you do, where should you do it?
Before you can answer these questions it is necessary for your brain to undertake a detailed analysis of some very unnatural observations – all of which are very difficult to admit to anyone outside of the cycling fraternity.
Firstly, it is essential to ascertain where they have come from; did they just pull out of a side road and are weary from being at the end of their ride? Have they been on this road for a while and are just shooting the breeze, or are they just simply doing their best but are just not capable of going any faster? Whilst working this out, your eyes are drawn to the anatomy of these potential targets and you start your critique without shame! “He has shaved legs but that one doesn’t. “That one in the middle has a little extra around the waist but has quite big calves”. “The one at the front is carrying no extra weight and has a very tight athletic backside” These are the sort of thoughts that got Oscar Wilde into very hot water but for some reason, if you take your riding seriously, then it’s completely acceptable to ogle other men’s vitals; like Louis Walsh at a boy band convention.
Thunderbirds are go…….
OK, you’ve done the mental work and you’re convinced you can take them. A quick check over your shoulder to ensure your team are together and BOOM! You jump out of the saddle; powering past the first man with your team in hot pursuit. The second man is dispatched with equal ease and things are looking rosy; you’ll be past in no time and leaving them in your wake! Easy!! Hang on a minute? What’s this? The first man has sensed what’s going on and has clearly responded with some extra power. You’ve drawn level but are not moving past, this is not meant to happen! Both teams are now side by side in a sort of cycling Mexican stand-off, It’s the type of thing that happens when an Eddie Stobart tries to overtake a Norbert Dentressangle lorry on a long steep hill; AWKWARD!
“Faster, faster, faster”, you say to yourself, Just get in front and they’ll drop out the back. You push harder on the pedals and start to edge past them. Finally the satisfaction of victory is yours…. Or is it? You see, these other riders happen to be red blooded males too and also feel the need to justify their extravagant spend, choice of tight clothing and menthol tinged nether reasons.
Passing another rider (in their mind) is comparable to pulling their swimming trunks down in the main pool at the local leisure centre; it’s the ultimate humiliation, so you shouldn’t be surprised that he and his mates have now latched onto your slip stream; making you ride like a bat that’s just been told to get out of hell before the big bad red fella changes his mind. Now you have no choice, you have to ride faster, faster, faster and any chance of an easy one went out of the window the moment you decided to be a hero.
The age of chivalry lives on….
This is pretty much the pattern of every ride, every week with no exception but one! Should you happen to catch a group of young ladies either on a training ride or a sportive, then deciding to follow them after the anatomy statistic check is usually impossible to resist. Well, we are red blooded males after all!