I’ve got nothing to prove. I’ve suffered enough times on the bike, in the cold, feeling unwell, or just plain unfit. I’ve done my share. If I don’t fancy it and I want to bail, I’ll bail.
Not very macho, I know. I might have just ruined that sepia toned image of the suffering cyclist I’ve been cultivating for so long.
But still, usually, just putting your kit on and riding works best.
On meeting up with a regular riding partner recently we both had that look. Hangdog, hunched, with body language all over the shop.
We barely needed to swap stories of the dregs of our latest winter bug, the wine we drank last night, and just how damn hard we’ve been working all week.
Just two men, in their forties, looking tired. That’s all.
“Plan?” I said.
“Whatever, I’m easy,” he said.
“Steady,” I said, and we wheeled off, un-enthused.
We plodded at low speed and took it easy on the climbs.
“How’s that?” he asked on a steep bit, eyebrows raised.
“Appalling,” I replied, over-dramatic. “My legs feel like shit.”
And then the sun came out and we accidentally clocked up twenty, then thirty, then forty miles, sociable and uncompetitive. We’d agreed a wordless truce.
“We’re in danger of having a really nice time here,” I said.
A bike race appeared round a corner – all gasping riders and eager team cars – with skinny lads up front and ‘never again’ first-timers at the back. We clapped them past and resumed our plod. Like an eternal lap of honour around our favourite forty-five mile route.
And then home.
Just a nice ride, anonymously, on the fringes of the world.
“It’s just a hill, get over it,” read the t-shirt of a bushy-tailed charity cyclist on the final climb of the day.
And we did.