A late Bah Humbug

As you might have gathered from the title of the post – I’m not exactly the greatest fan of Valentines Day. Truth be told I have never looked forward to it over the course of twenty years on this earth. Every year I brace myself; happy couples, flowers, chocolates and some truly dreadful cards. This bitterness of course has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I’m still single – honest. The only love I will be celebrating is that which I have for Cycling (in a completely non-creepy way just to be very, very, very clear), writing this made me cast my mind back when it all started…

It began just over four years ago, I still remember it as if it were yesterday. She was sitting right in the far corner of a crowded room. There were many others but I only had eyes for one. For a moment time just seemed to stop, an inner voice telling me that my life was about to change forever. I was bought out of this state or revelry by a friendly tap on the shoulder – “shall I take it off the shelf so you can have a closer look?” said the Bikeshop owner. I suspect the man knew an easy sale when he saw one. One week later and I bought her home, my first proper Road Bike – a Cannondale SuperSix 105.

All these years later and we’re still going strong. As I write this she is sitting in pride of place (i.e. on the turbo trainer). Signs of age are now beginning to show; spilled energy gels, saddlebags and occasional careless transport have all left their mark – yet I shall forever remain faithful. We have had our disagreements, it took me a long time to forgive after being landed in hospital with a broken clavicle. The pair of us have endured much hardship – that 11 speed upgrade that we yearned for so desperately and failed to materialise (though that was mainly due to buying a better pair of wheels instead). Ultimately, none of this matters – our union will not be easily broken.

Yes – there have been and will be other bikes. Of the two, my Specialized is by far the nicer machine to ride – stiffer, lighter and a better fit. With the Scott, everything is still new and exciting – on paper this bike is better in just about every way, especially with the edition of deep section wheels. However, if it ever came down to it and I could only keep one (the sort of thing I often have nightmares about), I would choose the old Cannondale every time. It will always be the bike that saw me through the (not so) spectacular transition from couch potato to mediocre amateur racer. Riding it up Mont Ventoux 3 times back in September felt like a fitting tribute. The sensible course of action would be to sell this bike on, before maintenance starts to cost more than it is worth. Never – not for love or money.

In recent years, Cycling has provided a much sought after excuse to escape civilisation on Valentines Day. A long ride incorporating much suffering has become a tradition. It’s one of the rare occasions for which I can persuade myself to get out of bed on time, that way I can get out early and spend most of the day in the middle of nowhere riding up various steep hills. Thereafter I’ll arrive home exhausted, after a recovery drink followed by a shower – it will be time to go and lie down. At this point I congratulate myself for getting through another 14th. 

Last year the ride was particularly gruelling. It may only have been 4,500 feet of climbing over 100km but was made far harder as a result of my own stupidity. I made the classic beginner mistake, not packing any food or money and only realising it at the furthest point of the ride. I just about made it home without having a complete *bonk – feeling like a hero just for making it through the door (Yes, I do realise that moron is a far more accurate term).

The year before that was arguably even better, in a pain based sense anyway. A triple ascent of Whitesheet Hill – if you haven’t heard of it, this is just about the hardest leg burner that Dorset has to offer, 565 feet of elevation in the course of a mere 1.2 miles. After living in Devon for four months, doing the triple wouldn’t present quite as much of a challenge as it did back then – I was still carrying some extra bulk and had foolishly set out with two full 750ml bottles. Lets just say that the day after this ride I began counting calories.

This time round, the calendar has thrown a Spanner in the works. Just typical that it has to be a Tuesday, where my timetable sadly makes a ride next to impossible. I could of course get up early for a turbo session. Not the best idea, I’d like to stay on speaking terms with my flatmates. Night ride maybe? You would have to to be truly mad to attempt one in this part of the world, the drivers are dangerous enough in broad daylight. Sadly then, the tradition will have to be broken – education getting in the way as usual. Not to worry – a trip to Dartmoor the day afterwards will be the next best thing.

Perhaps this will be the last bah humbug Valentines Day, though based on the current body of supporting evidence it’s not likely. In which case, long may the suffering continue and my *100 Climbs score carry on increasing. In all seriousness I hope that all readers find some way to enjoy or at least successfully endure the 14th – be it spending time with a significant other or hopping on a bike and getting away from it all (accepting that for some readers both of the above might mean the same thing). Rest assured that the next post will be a tad more useful.

For today, that’s all from me. Thanks for reading.

 

*Running out of energy completely, reduced to riding home at a snails pace in a state of utter humiliation.

*Well known Cycling book – 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. Riding them all is a common bucket list feature.