In every situation in life, there's always a way to make a tit of yourself
On a lovely sunny day it’s easy to imagine that taking a nice turn around some country lanes on a bicycle would be a perfectly joyous way to spend an afternoon. And sometimes it is.
But there are times – like when halfway up a hill that is turning out to be much bigger than it looked from the bottom, or when accidentally riding through a pothole for the twenty-seventh time and pondering what irreparable damage you’ve done to intimate parts of your anatomy – when you really do wonder why on earth you ever thought it would be a good idea.
So here are three of the most problematic things about cycling.
1. The lycra. I could leave it there really, not much more needs to be said about lycra. But that would sort of defeat the object of writing about it.
So suffice it to say that there comes a moment in every cyclist’s life when you find yourself looking at an item of lycra clothing in a sports shop and thinking “well that doesn’t look too bad, I could pull that off.”
You can’t. Any such thoughts are terrifying errors of judgement.
Because I guarantee that never in your life have you or will you ever look at any of your other normal clothes and go “yeah, it’s ok, but it would just look so much better if it was skin-tight, fluorescent and kind of weirdly shiny.”
The other problem with wearing lycra, of course, is that it becomes exponentially more embarrassing when you’re overtaken by someone in a cagoule and wellies riding a bike that looks a bit like they just fished it out of a canal.
Although, let’s be honest, it’s probably worth the investment. Because with the dazzling speeds you get up to, the wind-drag impact of your slightly flappy t-shirt is definitely significantly more than negligible.
2. The weather. Because when you’re on a bike you’re very much at the mercy of the elements. And you just haven’t been rained on until you’ve had rain coming at you from all the 360 degrees – from the sky, from passing vehicles, and even back up at you from your own wheels.
For years now my Mum and I have been attempting to be fair-weather cyclists and, to be honest, failing spectacularly at it. It always follows a no doubt familiar pattern – we’ll notice that the sun is shining, there’s not even a breath of wind to ruffle the leaves, a perfect day for cycling.
One of us will say “nice day for a bike ride”. Fateful words.
And as we exit the house mere minutes (well actually, if we’re being honest – 45 minutes of turning the house upside down in search of socks, arguing over whose padded shorts are whose, and realising that everyone’s bike tyres could probably do with pumping up) later, lycra-clad and bikes in hand, it’s a different story altogether.
In fact, on such occasions I have been known to wonder if I’d dozed off for a while, slept through a couple of world wars, and emerged in apocalyptic nuclear winter. The sky has clouded over, mist has descended and the world is cloaked in an ominous and distinctly chilly gloom.
We’ll say “think it’s going to rain?” “Nah.” More fateful words. And we’ll set off, only to be caught in a downpour/hailstorm/freak hurricane.
3. Watching the Tour de France on telly and suspecting that you might have absorbed the ability to cycle up Alpine mountain passes impressively quickly via some form of miraculous televisual osmosis.
This can lead to unfortunate levels of over-enthusiasm and optimism, but not to worry, these will be quickly extinguished as you struggle to make it up the hill to the traffic lights at the end of the road.
It’s usually somewhere between being overtaken by an old man on a mobility scooter and falling over at the pedestrian crossing outside Costcutter that you realise this is nothing like the Tour de France.
Instead of being cheered by crowds of Frenchmen, you get ignored encouragingly by the occasional dog-walker. Instead of deftly snatching up water bottles and packets of energy gel, you try not to swallow too many flies or get hit in the face by slightly overgrown hedgerows. And instead of sweeping round cordoned off roads, you attempt to not get mown down by the number 14 bus.
Other than that, though, it really wouldn’t be surprising if someone mistook you for Bradley Wiggins as you peddle past bearing only the slightest resemblance to an over-boiled beetroot. Well done you.
What with all that, it’s usually when you’re at the furthest point away from any sort of comfortable armchair or central heating that you realise you’ve made a horrible mistake and you’d really rather be at home. Preferably in bed. With a large supply of biscuits.
The Awkward Guide accepts no responsibility for adverse reactions to the implementation of advice supplied herein. Side-effects can include: smug laughter, mild disdain, and temporary irritation.