Selfies from the summit

Many years ago, I used to sit at my desk at work during the long summer months, blissfully unaware of all the bike related fun my friends might be up to. Well, ok, not quite blissfully…but unaware…you get the idea.

I would peer out at the sunshine past e-mails and spreadsheets, bemoaning the fact that any hair-brained schemes which might result in me riding my bike in the sunshine for a living were clearly a long way off. It was enough to know that various cycling companions of mine were out there somewhere, drinking in the life affirming joy of a ride up a big French col or down some long sweeping Pyrenean valley, without them getting in touch through the wonder of modern technology to remind me of it.

I didn’t begrudge them (perish the thought), but I was certainly jealous (obviously), and I didn’t really need to know the details, in real time, climb by climb, café by café.

That sort of thing doesn’t help me get through a long day in the office.

Mont Ventoux - wish you were here (Photo: James Whitesmith Flickr CC)

Mont Ventoux – wish you were here
(Photo: James Whitesmith Flickr CC)

There was a time not that long ago when it felt like a genuine achievement to have sent a holiday postcard, and return home to find that it had reached the UK before you did (it was a simpler time). Here in 2014 many of us have more computer processing power in the palm of our hands than was used to put a man on the moon, and the thought of sticking a stamp onto a postcard and putting it into a letterbox seems like a very strange way of doing things.

First of all mobile phones came along, and as much for the novelty of being able to send a few lines of text across the continent as any great one-upmanship, we started to send the odd mid-ride text message to each other, passing on some vital piece of information about our latest two-wheeled exploits.

So, cooped up in an office somewhere in the north of England, I would get:

‘Alright lad, we’ve just ridden up Mont Ventoux’
Fair enough, it’s a great ride and well worth shouting from the rooftops.

‘Now sitting in a café in Carpentras’
Erm, ok, bit less interesting but thanks anyway chaps.

‘Dave fell off on the way down and flew headfirst straight into a bush, you should have seen his face…!’
Yes, absolutely! Now I need to see a photo.

And so it came to pass.

Passo dello Stelvio - beats working for a living? (Photo: xuuxuu via

Passo dello Stelvio – beats working for a living?
(Photo: xuuxuu via

Now, barely a summer day goes by without some photo winging its way across to me from half way up Alpe d’Huez, or a selfie from the summit of the Stelvio, or instant visual evidence that Eddy Merckx has just been spotted doing his shopping in a non-descript Belgian town. All the while I sit at my desk, productivity levels dropping at the thought of every ride I’m missing, wondering what I might have said to Eddy Merckx (something really witty, probably, or insightful).

Don’t get me wrong; I’m an early adopter of most new technology, and I’m certainly not pining, like some kind of luddite, for the days when phone calls were made in phone boxes using handfuls of coins, and photo’s were taken on film and resulted in a few blurred images several weeks later, but all this sharing of experiences does have a downside. Not only do you get the feeling that life is happening somewhere else without you…

…but you end up with a phone full of someone else’s holiday snaps!

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Cycling Style and Substance

Despite being physically some of the fittest athletes on the planet, off the bike, pro-cyclists often look a bit odd; deformed, misshapen and out of proportion, with their oversized cycling specific muscles and complete rejection of any body weight which isn’t absolutely necessary for the job in hand.

To see some of them carrying out a simple, everyday task like walking in a straight line often gives the impression of a gangly teenager or a baby deer; all arms and legs, none of which are completely under their control.

But to see a pro-cyclist in context (i.e. on a bike) is often a demonstration of beauty and grace. Continue reading

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Tour de France 2014: I’ve got a bike race to watch!

Despite living a mere 40 miles away from where the Tour de France passes through Yorkshire in July 2014, I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to organising a plan of action for seeing this once-in-a-lifetime-happening, I’ve left things a little late. This is typical of me. For what seems like years now, I’ve talked vaguely with friends and family about where we’ll go to see the race (the Buttertubs Pass of course), how we’ll get there on roads that will undoubtedly be closed well in advance (ride, drive, walk?), and how brilliant it’s all going to be.

Except that, due to inaction on my part, plans appear to have formed all around me…none of which include me! Continue reading

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Cyclists, triathletes and home truths

Many of us who ride regularly call ourselves cyclists, as if cycling is so much more than just a way of spending our spare time that it defines who we are. It’s not a hobby, or a sport, as much as a way of behaving. It defines the way we eat, the things we talk about, and is, ultimately, the thing we would ALWAYS rather be doing when we’re not doing it.

(Add your own family related disclaimer here…quality time with wife and kids…etc. etc.)

Lots of other people think that’s a bit sad and we need to lighten up and get over ourselves…and who am I to say they might not have a point!

But whilst out on our regular Wednesday night ride recently, the group had swelled in number by one or two who don’t refer to themselves as cyclists, because they give themselves a different definition… Continue reading

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Cyclist or Strava Casualty?

There’s a modern phenomenon among cyclists that, until you understand what is going on, might seem baffling. One minute you are riding along with your companion, chatting away and happily talking nonsense, when suddenly and without apparent warning your friend is up out of the seat, jumping on the pedals, and straining every sinew like a sprinter heading for some imaginary finishing line – sometimes he keeps this up for 200 metres, sometimes he’s eyeballs out for a mile for two.

When it happens on a climb you think, ‘Ok, he likes to push himself on the climbs, that’s not unusual’, when he sprints for a town sign you think, ‘well, Ok, sprinting for town signs is perfectly normal, but a bit of prior warning would have been nice’. Continue reading

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