My friend Ger is a recreational cyclist who cycles regularly when not climbing mountains, but has not yet made the step up to clipless pedals and shoes. Here he gives an interesting and entertaining glimpse into one of his average solo spins :
You roll out the driveway onto your first bit of road and afford yourself a giggle as to why there are the remnants of a white line on it. There’s probably enough room for two bumper cars to pass each other, but that’s it.
Within a 2km radius of this rural landscape of road networks there are the bases of four haulage contractors. Roads that were developed by slapping a bit of chippings and tarmac on boreens that accommodated walkers, cyclists, donkeys and carts in days of yore. We never were good at planning in this Country. You’re all for that bit of commercial enterprise, but still…..
4kms in and a fellow cyclist approaches in the opposite direction. A car comes along behind him and proceeds to overtake which means that they’re heading straight for you. You can tell by the expression on the driver’s face that they know that they’ve worried you but they stare straight ahead. ‘Shur, I took a chance and I didn’t knock anyone down (today)’.
Traffic lights on the bridge after 6km. They’re there for months and there doesn’t seem to be any work going on. You don’t know the full story but there has to be concern about the structure, as it’s single file traffic on the bridge. So, it’s not ‘safe’ for the weight of heavy vehicles to pass each other on. That’s a worry. Hmmmm…
You pass through the village and it gets a bit tight near the shop, plenty cars on either side of the road. An oil truck comes against you and he’s well out, he knows this and actually acknowledges you. It’s amazing the effect that this small gesture can have on a cyclist. He saw you, he knew he was a bit out of order but he afforded you the courtesy of a hand gesture for his ‘oops’ moment. You take note of the company name on the truck and you’ll get a fill of oil from him next time.
You’ve been looking out for a new oil supplier. The existing crowd come close to you when passing from behind and have an aggressive style of driving when approaching in the opposite direction, especially on narrow roads – ‘I ain’t slowing down or pulling in. Get outta the way because I’ve a big truck’. Nothing like ‘economic sanctions’ to focus the mind of a business though, and you’ll tell them that next time you meet.
A bus passes after 10.5km and by God does he give you plenty room. You’re so happy that you give a big thumbs up to the driver and hope he sees the gesture in the wing mirror. It’s good to acknowledge the good, as drivers remember that. Every cyclist is an ambassador for all other cyclists.
Countless Red Bull cans in the grass margins along the road, jettisoned from passing vehicles. They’ll be writing about the massive caffeine addiction in the Country one of these days. You’ve seen the pallets of the drink in the petrol stations. We know that caffeine makes you aggressive and we also know that it helps you stay awake. You ponder the state of some drivers.
25kms elapse and you’re looking towards the Galty’s. This time of year is just magnificent with colour. You rack your brain to think of who sang that song ‘Forever Autumn’ – Oh yeah, The Moody Blues – and hum a few cords. Then, *Boom!!*, the first of the cars to pass you today doing closer to 100 kmph than the prescribed limit of 80. You’ll also see the ones with the phones to their ears at some stage of the spin.
You’re 35km in and it’s time to turn around. What’s with the wind down this neck of the woods? Forecast was for a SW direction, which means that you’ve been cycling into it for the first half of the spin. But still, it’s in your face going the opposite direction. Makes it hard to hear those vehicles coming behind you, too. Must be the way the mountains hold it. Good cyclists down this way, why wouldn’t they be, cycling into the wind at every turn.
The bigger (wider) cars and jeeps pass by, that bit too close. Many of these drivers graduated from the Fiat Panda during the Celtic Tiger years and you wonder if that part of the brain that deals with spatial awareness ever adjusted. You question their judgement.
Beautiful Autumnal colours abound on the Knockmealdown’s. Glorious to the naked eye but you know that the camera on the phone won’t do them justice, so there’s no point in stopping to take that photo.
Two ladies cycling in the opposite direction and they’re lit up like the aurora borealis: luminous pinks and greens. Are the colours a sop to drivers or do they really slow drivers down and save lives? I mean, if you’re driving slowly with due care and attention why can’t you see me in my red/black jacket? You’ve seen the new lights at pedestrian crossings in towns, they must be 10m high. Why? A sop to drivers or a Council spending a budget so that they’re seen to be doing something for road safety?
Feet get cold this time of the year. You haven’t graduated to the pedal/shoe cleat combo so the runners ain’t great. Your mental jury is out on the cleats – what if you have to stand your ground or run like hell from a belligerent driver. Waterproof socks or shoes will have to do.
You’ve 9km to go and there’s a pull for a good bit of that journey. Have you the energy to give it a lash. No PB today as the wind wasn’t with you but if you’re not in some bit of discomfort after the spin, was it really worthwhile. You make up your mind to attack some hill.
You’re tired when you get home but you’re happy. You’ve run the gauntlet with the motorised vehicles and you hope that you’ve gained the respect of other road users over the few hours that you’ve been out.
At the end of the day it’s about courtesy and respect for others: both are free.