This is my first winter of ‘training’ for, as my boyfriend puts it, push-bike riding. He’s not a mountain biker. His idea of cycling is to the pub on his sit-up-and-beg Dawes which has a wonky pedal, ripped leather seat and 3 sturmey archer gears of which only 2 work properly.
Our relationships with cycling couldn’t be more different. He looks pityingly down on me as I struggle up the stairs to our flat with frozen feet and numb hands and then makes me strip in the hallway whether the neighbours are in or not, so I don’t get mud on the kitchen floor. He yells at me when I get bits of leaf and mud in the boot of his car. (It’s bigger than mine so gets borrowed rather a lot). He groans when I creep out of bed early on weekend mornings to get a good ride in before the day really starts and gets cross when I’m too tired for conversation (or anything else) on the evenings when I’ve done an hour of spinning before work and a run straight afterwards. He scowls when the washing machine clunks across the floor and floods the utility room through over work from muddy kit. He shakes his head in disbelief when I explain I want to move so we have a spare room to keep my bikes in.
But he never tells me to shut up when I describe that incredible ride feeling I have when it all goes to plan. This morning I got back from swift 45 mile a road ride with my local club. I was at the front from the start, trailing the boys up the hills, working hard into the headwind on the flat and eventually feeling my quads screaming tired under my (rather optimistic) ¾ tights as I pushed home - with a smile on the outside and a ‘yessssssss’ on the inside. That feeling he understands well from years of running 10ks and marathons and fighting for the front and not always getting it but when you do… what a feeling.
This morning, stood in sweaty lycra and a helmet fresh from the ride, I drivvled on for minutes about this hill climb and that descent or that corner and the various heart rates at each stage. No scowls, he just looked and smiled and said “keep it up”. As the pressure of work, jobs, responsibility and studies creep into my subconscious like little New Year worry-gremlins, I’ll keep hold of that. I know that cycling keeps me sane and the hours at spinning classes and the soul-destroying winter riding will pay off.