You know those proper athletes who jet off half way up the world to run laps around the summit of Kilimanjaro? The idea being that on returning to sea level, their lungs will be supercharged by more heavily oxygenated air so delivering a legal performance benefit. It has always struck me as an extremely desperate approach to gain a barely perceptible advantage – that is until I tried the same thing with my courier bag.
In the “Devil’s sack” as I cheekily like to think of it are, what appear to be, a random collection of bike spares sufficient to build something the ‘A Team’ would be proud of. Many times I have come to the aid of a worried elderly gent, struck motorless just for the need of a flange-rebate dwell angled thruster gusset. A random rummage in the bag of doom offers up something close enough to be hammered into shape. Luckily I carry one of those as well.
It’s sort of organically grown up you see, stuff goes in but nothing is ever chucked out. Time and time again I stare into its’ inky abyss and agonise over the potential removal of – say – the emergency badger, but I know in my heart it’s bad karma and the very next day, I’ll be marooned in need of a pair of furry gloves or crotch pelt. You can’t afford to take any chances on the mean streets of London.
Today I dispatched the entire hated weight into the far corner of the barn, wrestled a 100PSI into the Roadrat tyres and blasted off from base accompanied only by a phone, mp3 player and a headful of dirty work angst that only fast fresh air could clean out. It wasn’t until I was spinning out on a gear ration of 53:12 did my helmetless head make itself known as Darwinian selected flies failed to dodge 44mph of speeding forehead.
I’ve never enjoyed solo road riding because – well – it’s a bit dull. If you’re not properly fit, it hurts too much going up and there’s no social protocol that allows you to rest and have a sit. I ride on the road most days but only because I’m going somewhere – normally late – so push it as hard as I can and find myself gasping and a bit broken at rides end. So it’s rare that to ride a loop from home for the sake of getting out but two days tied to the ‘puter, muddy, wet trails awaiting MTB tyres and a short break in the weather left this as my only option.
Unemcombered by transporting my entire belongings with me, the climb out of the valley was strangely painless. I assumed a monster tailwind or a lack of effort, yet the myth of some fitness was sustained on standing legs pushing a pretty big gear. Five miles in and sailing along the ridge road, all continued well with enough breath and rhythm to crack along at a decent pace. Ashtma and twenty years of abusing legal and illegal substances generally creates an air gap between ego and lungs that I find increasingly hard to bridge. Not today, must be a tailwind.
About this time, I joined my normal route home from the station, a couple of gears up and reveling in a lack of energy sapping luggage. When I last rode this extended route about a year ago, it took me over an hour to complete a rather epic-lite 15.4 miles. It occurred to me that today I may be doing a little better but assumed the lost headwind would find me or the tyre would explode or the lack of decomposed badger would somehow come into play.
None of these things came to pass but with a mile to go, my legs started to burn and my lungs to produce nothing much other than wheezing or flem. I must learn to spit properly because past 20mph, it always seems to land on another part of my body. Ugh. I managed a standing grind up the final hill to home, nearly totalled the entire enterprise failing to understand the potentially fatal interface of slick tyre and muddy drive, and skidded to an uncontrolled halt outside the barn.
Wrench open the door, check the clock, have an ‘eyes as saucers’ moment, check it again to be sure and then collapse in a spent heap. 49 minutes. I will never beat that unless I lose the nine pounds of courier bag weight off my padded frame. And that would mean giving up beer which, of course, is never going to happen. But if that’s what it is like to feel fit – wow, almost worth riding a road bike for.