The Clothes Horse

A verb I happily placed in the sad world of those who include bevelling and routing*in their chosen vocabulary. I’ve always found little room for such nonsense when ‘drinking‘ and ‘slacking‘ offer far more pleasurable displacement.

Apparently though this isn’t some kind of organic whittling of material – rather it is more a structured approach to training for maximum performance. No surprise it’s never caused me a moment’s bother until today where my mild concern at not riding a road bike for eighteen months was laconically described as ‘that’s a proper bit of tapering‘ by a proper roadie.

Proper in that arse-headed, chisel jawed, thin-lipped and tyred view of the world. Announcing that come Sunday, yours grumpily shall set embark on a hilly 100 kilometre voyage of the many peaks and troughs of the wye valley, he felt the urge to question my training, preparation and technique.

Mountain bikes, decent claret, keep-buggering-on disposition‘ framed my jaunty reply. Not good enough apparently. Tapering was just the bloody end of it, there was nutrition, heart rate, tactics and mental alignment to consider before even turning a pedal. Apparently getting round without calling for medical assistance not only lacked ambition, it was disrespectful of the entire endeavour.

My reply is not recorded by history**, but a jaunty disposition hid a worried frown. I’d had every intention of unearthing the much neglected road bike, blowing off the dust and re-acquainting myself with the whole oddness of a tarmac world. Sadly work, weather, apathy and a mental weathervane that rotates past ‘right then 50k on the road starting right now mister‘ before slamming to a stop at ‘See you on the dirt at midday, bring money for beer‘ with barely a guilty pause.

That guilt did at least trigger some desultory activity involving inflating flat tyres, poking unfamiliar components with a small hammer and harvesting hated lycra from the darker recesses of the kit drawer. A shakedown ride aimed high at 3000 metres, but ended low with only about 200. Half of these were desperately spent failing to clip into weird road pedals, and the rest wondering where the rest of the bars had gone. My working assumption was the same bloody thief had nicked about 2 inches off the tyres.

And the brakes? I’d have liked some. A quick jaunt off road confirmed it was no cross bike aswhat we have here is pain wrapped up in carbon and trinkets. There’s clearly no hiding place in lycra which is a bit of a problem as my superbly focussed weight loss initiative hit the buffers of I-Can’t-Be-Arsed-Anymore, and there’s a bit more Al and a bit less fitness.

Still I did manage 100k when I was nearly 10k heavier. This is a good statistic although somewhat mitigated by the non refutable fact it was two years ago when I was road riding to avoid trains. Since then I’ve ridden 100k exactly no times at all unless you’re allowed to include car journeys which apparently don’t count. Even if you have a mountain bike in the back.

Come Sunday then, me and my ever present insanity-wingman shall be awkwardly hanging about in a muddy field at stupid’o’clock, jostled by testosterone cockage and spring rain. There’s a part of me – that’s the part that’s about 9 years old – thinking ‘bollox, I’ll take the mountain bike, the camelbak and the peaked helmet.. that’ll show ’em what a proper rebel I am‘. There’s another part some 35 years older that knows nobody’ll give a shit. Not even me.

Anyway at least it won’t be snowing. I’ll be campaigning the slow down to go fast approach with a clear rider than at least half of that is negotiable. Apparently there’s medals and stuff for arriving at some arbitratory hour. I think we can give that the fuck off it deserves. Arriving back alive after 5,500 feet of climbing and much mincing on the descents will be enough for me. More than enough.

For about eighteen months if history is any judge.

* but not rooting. I once loudly admonished an office-full of shocked Australians that every proper Englishman always rooted for his country. A well tanned local slapped me on the shoulder and declared ‘fair dinkum mate, that’s a proper job‘. About five years later realisation dawned on why sniggering and pointing announced my presence on that particular floor.

** Oh okay it did. “Fuck Off

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