Cycling week 30
Let's ride! And not ride sometimes.
The morning ride. Traffic on Raroa relentless and churning. The only thing for it was to put my head down and get it over with. For the most part I hug the shoulder as closely as possible, but in places where it's genuinely too scary to let cars pass, I've started doing the slightly less scary thing and Taking The Lane, as the cycling elders tell us to do.
The ride home. The wind was that blustery, talking gibberish, yanking things wind.
Rode to work on a still, cold day. Down below, the harbour in good silvery form. I was tired but felt fast. A truck followed me closely along Plunket St, so I pulled over. The truck sailed past. The Countdown truck! Its unmistakeable green cloak of madness.
I thought about doing a lunchtime ride today because it was such a nice day, but couldn't wrestle myself away from the desk. 'Thinking about doing a ride' falls into a similar category for me as 'thinking about writing'. At its heart is a sort of restlessness and slight fear and you know you will never regret having done it. But will you do it?
Rode home a bit later than usual. My problem leg was griping but it settled down on the way.
I noticed that the beam of my front light makes the shape of Robocop’s helmet.
A morning ride in blobby rain. Pants soaked through immediately.
A woman at the Plunket St intersection, waiting for a cautious driver in front to go: 'Ahhh! Hurry up lady!' That phrase always makes me laugh. What are we, New York cabbies? I also sort of envy the phrase, because only drivers can say it with the full exasperation required. One day, if I ever learn to drive, I will sit behind people looking at their phones at the lights and sigh, 'Ahhh! Hurry up lady!'
I've been watching a documentary series about the 2022 Tour de France, Unchained, which follows eight teams around the race. It's stressful, but I'm really enjoying it. The show has a few recurring scenes so far: cyclists careening into one another and piling up like pick-up sticks on the merciless cobblestones; grizzled coaches sticking their heads out of car windows to scream as they pass the peloton; cyclists sitting solemnly in a bus as their coach rants at them; and men screaming into headpieces from inside a speeding car. From time to time we'll also get some talking head reminding us of the mercilessness of the peloton – the peloton does not care, the peloton does not wait, it must go on. Another feature is the morbidity of the commentators. During the brutal Col de Granon stage in the French Alps, Jonas Vingegaard and his teammates mount an attack on the yellow jersey, Tadej Pogačar, who then mounts a counter-attack. Attempting to channel Pogačar, the commentator cries, 'If you're gonna try to get rid of me, I'm gonna rip your legs off!' But the cyclists themselves seem almost placid as the storm rages around them. They are strange, whippet-looking creatures. As they churn up mountains with astonishing speed, their muscles and tendons bulge; their pain is visible. As they scythe down the other side they become pointy and blade-like, almost 2D.
On the morning ride I cycled over a leek that was lying on the road.
After work I rode into town for necessary beer. Then a long, peaceful ride home in the dark, warming up quickly inside very cold air.
No morning ride, as I worked at home today, but I did a lunchtime errands ride. Town was chaotic, full of roadworks and sirens and detours. On Victoria St a man waved his arms inside his van. Further up – the spectre of none other than the Countdown truck. A relief to get away from the traffic, into the hills towards home.
A beautiful morning ride – sky as smooth as the shell of a hardboiled egg. I had forgotten my sunglasses and the low winter sun was stabby in the eyes.
Rode home at night after the gym. I like to go into a Friday night slowly – slither out from under the saddlebags of work and roll into the weekend. The ride started out fine enough. Then something changed.
I had a close pass on Glasgow, and a mood came over me quickly. It was a dark fury. A smouldering, horrible black rage in my heart and stomach. The rage went right down into my legs and arms. I could have torn my bike apart with my hands and thrown the pieces up into the powerlines. I could have ripped the saddle off with my teeth and then eaten it.
It was as if I'd inhaled something poisonous – a tiny bug that had turned into a monster in the lungs. The rage was a rage about cars but it was also a rage about everything and a rage at myself. It was deep and fast-moving and all-seeing. It was like the chaos at the centre of a pile-up of cyclists and it was also the coach tearing his hair out inside a speeding car and it was also the drone zooming overhead.
At the bottom of Highbury Rd my front light went out. I used the torch on my phone to light my way, clutching it over the top of the handlebars. Highbury can feel scary at night. The occasional streetlight isn't enough. Two mountain bikers without lights came hurtling down the hill, yelling at each other in the dark. I gave them a withering glare that they wouldn't see.
Often a bad mood gets burnt out by a decent climb, and only a few scraps and tendrils remain by the end, but this one only gathered in force and speed and bitterness, and I couldn't see what was at the true centre of it. Maybe the rage was my Pogačar – 'If you're gonna try to get rid of me, I'm gonna rip your legs off!' – and I could either attack it or save myself and let it go by.
I tried to let it go by, and ended the cycling week in a totally undignified position – lying on the floor, seething, furiously drinking a beer.