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…
Now, before I get into the usual cyclist v triathlete clichés about their lack of bike handling skills and their inability to ride properly in a group, I would like to reassure you that I won’t be getting into any of that cheap point scoring.
Being a sociable type, and naturally interested in strange and foreign ways of behaving, I quickly got into deep conversation about why someone would first of all want to go for a swim before a bike ride, and then have a quick run afterwards. From what my new triathlete friends were saying I got the impression that they actually relish doing battle with the other flailing arms during the swim, and they genuinely enjoy the punishment (and, let’s be honest, sheer tedium) of the run.
Me? I like to suffer and struggle on the bike as much as the next man, but I want to do it in a civilised way; not after having spent half an hour splashing about in the water, or prior to pummelling my knees into submission in a pair of trainers.
Before a ride I like to warm my kit on the radiator, knock back a couple of espresso coffees, pontificate over my choice of arm-warmers, tweak my seat position, and have a long and over-elaborate conversation with my fellow cyclists about the best route to take in view of the prevailing wind conditions.
After a ride I like to slip on my retro cotton casquette, eat a cheese sandwich, and recline on the settee with feet raised up on a couple of cushions, basking in the familiar and satisfying ache in my cycling specific muscles.
This leaves me with neither the time nor the inclination to swim or run.
Having said all this, I couldn’t help noticing that not only did my triathlete friends possess the well-toned and muscular calves and thighs of a cyclist, but they topped it off with an upper body worthy of the name. A quick look at my own torso confirmed that, while it doesn’t exactly resemble the badly drawn stick figure of a Tour de France contender, it’s maybe not as muscular as it once was, and so I began to wonder whether there might be something to be said for this obsessive multi-disciplinary training after all.
Post ride, I mulled it over with the wife:
‘I’ve thought about doing triathlons’, I said, ‘I think I’d have to wear speedos though. What do you think?’
‘About speedos?’ she said, eyebrows raised.
‘About triathlons. I think it would be good for my general fitness, but I’d have to spend so much time training that it’s probably not really fair on you and the kids?’
She fixed me with a sympathetic gaze.
‘Love…you’re no more a triathlete than I am an acrobat’.
Which is a fair point. End of conversation.
I had wondered whether inside every cyclist there is secretly a triathlete trying to get out? In my case, it’s very definitely staying in.