April 11, 2019
So Tim sent a Messenger message. He’s bought a new bike and would I fancy going out for a bike ride? Well why not?
Tim’s an old colleague that I worked with over a decade ago. We’d stayed in touch and he’d found himself between jobs. That’s not as bleak as it reads. He’d taken up an offer to join a competitor and his old firm had put him on gardening leave. So in between all the decorating, gardening and other (wife enthused) tasks he’d been keeping fit.
He’d known about my bike riding (who doesn’t?) and despite him doing about 100 miles a week (!) since February he was concerned that he might not be good enough to keep pace with me. This anxiety wasn’t shared by me. Frankly anyone can ride a bike and as I’m giving him nine years in age (and he’s quite a decent sportsman) I wasn’t expecting to teach him much despite his touching humility.
So when we met up with a planned 47 mile round trip he presents himself looking fit with his new bike and some top quality branded kit. I smelt a rat. Off we went. Tim kept nicely in front of me; chatting away merrily. I’m pedalling as fast as I can (or want to without exhausting myself) trying to catch his conversation in a headwind. He must have enjoyed talking to himself as he talked for quite sometime with no audible response from me.
Tim obviously realised that he was the stronger and feeling no sympathy didn’t slow down and ploughed on! Eventually we got to the cafe for the teacake and cuppa. I think I’d caught my breath by the end of the break. At the end of our race/ride I surprisingly agreed to go out again but farther and more hilly.
I tend to fit in a hard ride every week and such a route up to Helmsley with the promise of fish and chips is a great trip. This time the pecking order was established but still the pressure switched back to me as I knew the route. So grinding up hills Tim might sit in behind me and when he got bored with my lacklustre pace he’d come alongside and start a conversation. At this point I think, with my burning lungs, I might have only been able to say “stop” or “oxygen”. Tim did however tire of slipstreaming (and going slowly) and started to disappear up the gradients ahead of me. I wasn’t sorry to see him go, not least to admire his expensive wardrobe from behind.
Around twenty years ago or even longer I used to ride out with other work colleagues and a splendid time we had as younger men climbing the steepest that Yorkshire had to offer. I enjoyed the banter, the sprinting up hills and general competition. It was a long time ago: now I cycle alone and after a knee problem had got comfortable with trundling along with little ambition of time trialling. Riding with Tim became
an opportunity to train and get a lot faster again. Checking my times when riding with him I was 5 – 10% faster and back to speeds I might have done over 5 years ago. Terrific. Also I started taking the rides a lot more seriously with pasta the night before, a decent breakfast, a couple of glucose gels for a boost in my pocket, not wearing headphones (listening to podcasts) and thinking about the ride before I set off to ensure I knew what was coming.
This had it’s benefits and when Tim ‘went up the road’ he didn’t get a million miles away (ie. I could still see him in the distance). Needless to say by this stage I was probably trying more than him and he might have been cycling at a decent pace just to keep warm! I noted that he was now carrying gels himself (a backhanded compliment if there ever was one). A more dubious benefit was his chirping away. As a man who’d cycled these routes tens of times alone with little interest in the surroundings I was suddenly informed about his parent’s houses, houses nearly bought, football pitches used for training, birds of prey on the wing and former building sites managed leading to reprimands from Managing Directors.
In return I taught Tim how to buy a sandwich and eat it in the open air. When this was proposed there was much disinterest and the option of a cake was treated with absolute dismissive contempt (“Does Mark Cavendish stop for flapjack?”). However 2½ hours later after climbing 600 metres a sandwich became the highlight of the outing (despite my eating his choice by accident!).
I’m using this ‘mentoring’ to revisit some of my better recent times on routes. And who knows when Tim returns to work I may be found tagging along at the back of the Tour de Yorkshire peloton.