November is the strangest of months. It’s not quite cold enough to be real winter. It’s not quite warm enough to be Autumn. It’s a nothing month where our brains and bodies fight against the drear and dread of the oncoming darkness, a primordial need to sleep and eat kicks in hard, and we sloth away the days. Some choose to do it in style at the local, some in hell in their cars.
I see it in their dead eyes as I sit on my toptube waiting for the lights to change. Sat in her car, she stares dumbly at the junction ahead waiting for the call to aggression, to momentarily stamp hard on the accelerator and await the inevitable return to stationary fifteen meters later. The ritual of self-harm, slowly killing her mindless gear change by gear change, no real purpose other than to trudge.
As a cyclist, we live in a similar world between torpor and deathly focus. We ride along with our wheels whirring underneath us without little notice for the beauty of it until they slide sideways suddenly requiring total focus. Sometimes we fail and come tumbling to earth with a sharp reminder that we should pay more attention. But sometimes we don’t. The tyres slide, the mind reacts before the body can catch up and we just go with it.
These moments of oblivious skills are pure wonder. The pothole hopped at the last moment. The hub-deep rut ridden at full-speed. The two wheel drift where you don’t stop pedalling. But do you ever stop to think about how you got away with it? When learning to ride a motorbike in my early teens my uncle explained to me why he’d survived the road racing circuit for so many years:
“When you finish a ride and turn off the engine think about what you did right. What you did wrong. What you can do better. Think about it, then work on it”.
The same sage advice my uncle gave to me works for riding these dropped bar bikes in the dirt or on tarmac. What things did you do well during that last ride? What things did you do badly? What can you do better?
If you can’t answer these questions you’re missing the point of riding a bike. To be aware of the bike, how it affects you, how it affects others. You may as well just be sat in a car slowly killing yourself like the other sheep. Wake up. Look around you. Relish it. If not, you’re just wasting your time.
Beer of the Week:
Wild Swan (White Gold Pale Ale) ABV 3.5%
“Wild Swan is white gold in colour with aromas of light bitter lemon, a hint of herb and a subtle spiciness. A great refreshing beer!”
I was sat at the Kendal Mountain Festival last weekend supping this delightful beer and watching people so engrossed in the speaker when I realised I had no idea what I was actually drinking. Turns out what I thought was a stronger American beer was a delightful British beer. Most, most excellent.