Sucking my wheel and tickling my ego

wheel

We cyclists are capable of prolonged arguments about a lot of things, but we are unanimous in our view of the wheel-suckers of this world – those bone idle freeloaders who think that our slipstream is their own personal helping hand.

I’ve already gone into great detail on this.

But recently, whilst riding my bike on a guerrilla skirmish across the county border into Yorkshire, something odd happened.

‘Nothing unusual there,’ you might think, ‘odd things happen all the time in Yorkshire.’ Which they do. But this odd thing shook my belief structure to its very core. It caused me to feel grateful, even appreciative, of a stranger sucking my wheel.

(Now there’s a weird sentence…)

As I was happily rolling along, imagining myself to be Greg van Avermaet crushing a massive gear, a fellow cyclist appeared from a side road up ahead.

Travelling much quicker than him, I zipped past with a polite ‘ow do mate’ and upped my cadence; the golden rule states that if you ride past someone, you really ride past them, to remove all doubt.

A mile down the road, that weird sixth sense kicked in.

‘He’s on my wheel,’ I thought. I sneaked a glance, and there he was. Limpet like. Turning my big effort on the front into his armchair ride home. Cheeky bugger.

I gave him a chance to come past. I signalled grids and potholes to let him know that we were now a team. I flicked the elbow. He just sat there.

After five or six miles I sat up slightly and slowed. The adrenaline was flowing, and I was ready for a chat. A friendly chat, but a chat nonetheless.

I feathered the brakes, he rolled alongside.

“Going far mate?” I asked. I was pleased with my opening gambit.

I looked him in the eye, and what I saw changed everything.

His cheeks were dark red, his brow was furrowed and sweat dripped from his entire head. His chin was smeared with snot and mucus. He was replying to my loaded question, but was breathing so heavily I couldn’t make out any recognisable words.

It could have been Yorkshire slang – I can never tell – but I took it be an admission that it was all he could do to hold my wheel, and to come past and do his turn was a physical impossibility.

In that moment he turned from parasitic enemy into long-lost friend.

Far from being the usual act of treachery, his insistence on sucking my wheel was, in fact, a way to make me feel good about my current form on my bike, and therefore myself.

The two are fundamentally linked.

We rode together for a few minutes, having a nice chat, and then went our separate ways.

He went from sucking my wheel to tickling my ego.

Which, considering he was a complete stranger, feels a bit wrong either way.

(Image: Robert Couse-Baker via Flickr CC)


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9 comments

  1. The ride when you are no longer the person grabbing a wheel for a little bit of relief and instead are setting the pace for others is memorable. I was on a rare commute when I first realised all those weekend miles had had an effect… I still remember the commuter who sat behind me for five miles before cheerily shouting “thanks for the tow” as he turned off (and I thankfully took a breather)….

    Liked by 1 person

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