When assessing the talents of a riding partner with whom you never ridden before, it’s perfectly acceptable to look them up and down and mentally weigh them. For the record, in most other polite situations it’s not acceptable to do this. At least openly, anyway.
If you’ve never ridden with someone before and you are trying to work out how quick they are their size and weight is as good a starting point as any. You’re basically working on the goldilocks principle, and looking for someone who is not too heavy (too slow), not too light (too quick on the climbs), but just right.
Admittedly, picturing a situation where you would be offered up a selection of riding partners of varying weights for you to choose from is a bit weird. This is a largely hypothetical scenario.
Suppose you are not lucky enough to be presented with this unlikely buffet of cyclists and your only available riding partner is as skinny as a rake. He weighs in at 62 kilo’s, has the complexion of a partly cooked onion, and resembles a walking coat hanger when off the bike.
As a normal human being you have decided not to deny yourself all earthly pleasures, and you are in possession of a healthy layer of body fat. But now this racing snake is about to turn you into mincemeat every time the road heads upwards. You need a plan.
The key to riding with this bag o’ bones is not so much where you ride with him, but when.
Your only chance is to pick a bitter, windswept winter afternoon and insist on a little jaunt into the hills. Then, surreptitiously ease off the pace to the point where your friend is expending no effort whatsoever to ride with you. In no time at all the cold will penetrate through his skin and into to his very bones whilst you, with your naturally insulated body, will still be ticking over nicely.
With no natural defence against the elements the cold will chip away at his physical and mental well-being. Within an hour he will have reached the point where he has long since stopped feeling like a finely tuned athlete and is now focused solely on making it home alive.
If you can possibly see your way to getting a puncture at this point, your position will only be strengthened. By seeking out every thorn and shard of glass in the gutter you may, if you’re lucky, buy yourself an extra 10 minutes of inactivity at the roadside where you carry out running repairs and your friends lips start to turn blue.
This is your moment to press home your advantage and up the pace. With muscles seized and hands and feet like blocks of wood he will be powerless to respond and wishing he’d been eating more than lean meat, rice, and vegetables for the last few months.
If this seems cruel, simply remind yourself just how much mercy he’d be showing you in a straight fight up a steep hill.
Not much, is my guess.