I’m not sure what is more stupid, racing against yourself or being unhappy when you lose. Commuting in London was also about targets – but only because you were one, and my idea of a result was arriving at work with the same number of limbs as I’d started out with.
Commuting here is different for many reasons. It’s hillier, safer and longer. Finishing via the Ledbury cycleway takes it to a tad under eleven miles, with 570 feet of vertical to get over. On the roadrat, it was a 50 minute pootle through pleasantly deserted roads, dispatched without getting too much of a sweat on.
The Jake is different, it may be from an older generation of race bikes, but a race bike it still is. It seems to falter and lose speed so quickly when you coast – becoming turgid and heavy. But crank it up and it flies, stiff and fast, needing just a nudge to change direction and super composed sweeping through bends.
Throw a GPS into the mix which shows your pace against a previous best time, and beepily nags at you to try harder. And try you do, staying on the drops, refusing to drop a gear and going for the gurn. I used to hate drop bars, but now they make sense – cutting through the wind and providing a stable platform so you can just pedal and go faster.
It’s not enjoyable cycling. There is no time to watch the rising sun slant stunningly through the orchards, you don’t wonder at the joy of being out of the car and into the rural air. At no point does your mind wander to great thoughts or pointless introspection. Because the bastard GPS is beeping out your weakness, and you’re more interested in looking for ten seconds than looking at the view.
Maybe you coasted a bit here last time, did I get off the drops, was it a gear down? No time to remember, just get the hammer down, accept it’s going to hurt, let rasping lungs and burning thighs fight over who gives up first. Chase buses, chafe at traffic, swear at wandering pedestrians – don’t they know I’m on for my BEST TIME?
It’s idiocy. And you can’t win. You can die by a thousand cuts. Weighted down tomorrow by drizzle, tired legs and excuses, I’ll get bested by my virtual self. And it’ll bother me.
Somewhere in this world of lunacy, I might be getting a little bit fit. More likely it’s a tailwind 😉