You can keep your fancy GPS’s, chuck your heart rate monitors in the hedge and worry away at your statistics spreadsheet, because while you are working out where you lost that time, I am waiting for a bus. I know it was only last month my witterings on targets had me chasing virtual training partners all the way to work, and then spending the remainder of the day lying down.
But it became clear I must apply Al’s rule of achievement* to my heavy legged pursuit of stupidity. So now I’m measuring my progress by playing chicken with the “Bromsgrove Omnibus”. The first time I met this bus was nearly the last, as it aurally indicated a desire to pass on a road that I’d always assumed was adequately sized for only single file cows and possibly a MP3 driven bicycle.
He passed with inches to spare and a “I’ll get you butler” gesture expression which I deigned unworthy of a reply** and gave it scant thought until it became obvious this wasn’t just any bus, this was my PACE BUS. And if I could squeeze in front before a singletrack road some five miles from home, I could keep the miserable bugger behind me for a good couple of minutes. Now that’s sport right there.
So now I’m off the Hereford train at 18:37 clipped in and heading out via the squashy slalom of random pedestrianisation, immediately looking for ways to cheat the God of Time. First up is a cheeky trail through ledbury, much wooded, significantly dog walked and offering lippy roots to straight line difficult line choices.
Then out of the town and chasing nothing but my hedge painted shadow, gagging a bit on dusty clay vectored off busy tractor ploughs, loving the sunshine, feeling way stronger in my knee and lungs that three virtually bike free weeks could possibly allow.
But this is merely a pleasant aperitif before a meaty main course of Omnibus and tarmac that’s coming up in four miles if I can turn these pedals a bit harder. That’s the distilled and beautiful clarity of riding a bike – it’s the simple joy of smooth circles driving you on, the grin of sweeping bends, the whum of hard tyres on baking tarmac, the just-bloody-nobody-gets-why-bikes-are-so-fucking-fantastic that justifies an obsession.
And that bus that’s going to be hitting that junction at 19:01, so I need to be there first. By a quirk of geography, the cross in the road is visible from 45 seconds upstream, meaning if I’m not hitting that crest at seven o’clock or better, the bus ain’t waiting for me. So it’s back to standing up and clicking a gear combination that shoots staccato breath from an open mouth, burns muscles from ankles to hip and strains arms dumping sweat onto the bars.
6:58, big sodding river bridge coming up, can’t slow down, feel the tyre squirm into the tarmac, feel legs slowing down, feel lungs desperately screaming for more air, feel… feel… feel, this is the stuff of life isn’t it? This is why we do this, this is what makes us different to the bloke next door with his paintbrush and his paunch. This is what makes us a little smug, a little bonkers, a little more obsessed. Because this feeling needs bottling and selling.
I can see the junction, and I can see the bus lumbering up the hill heading for the turn and I can’t see anything else. Now it’s a straight run – slightly downhill – four clicks on the shifter, big gear, out of the saddle, ignore the cacophony of body complaint and charge down the tunnel of vision that displays just a short tarmac ribbon, an onrushing junction and a big red bus.
Briefly considering – and calculating it’s a reward that far outstrips the risk – that traffic may be steaming past the junction, I slow not even a little bit, swerve right as the bus turns left and give it a few final desperate pedal stamps to nip in front.
And then – pretty well spent – have a nice minute or two finding some breath for my lungs and oxygen for my legs while a frustrated man in a dodgy cap impotently guns his engine behind my serene form. There is a perfect symmetry there – people wait for a bus, and now the bus waits for me.
Look I know what you’re thinking. But honestly with my legendary limbo boredom threshold, I need something to keep me amused on the commute. It’s that or getting off the bike and jumping in with all those lovely lambs 🙂
* If at first you don’t succeed, redefine exactly what you mean by the word “Success”
** Mainly because I was having a rather trying time extricating myself from a drainage ditch much inconvinienced by a bicycle.