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12.008 – Suffering, The Yellow Jacket of Authority and the Measurement of Epic Rides

Rides shall be measured not by overall distance, but by the amount of suffering, e.g. “we were off the front, in the rain for 90 miles”. The 10 miles that you spent in the bunch should never be mentioned, as hiding in the bunch is weak and is frowned upon.

After the driest ‘cross season imaginable it’s been nice to have a bit of real weather recently. It also coincides beautifully with the start of the road racing season and the peak cross country training season. Now is the time to get the really big long rides in to improve your endurance for this summer’s races. A sportive under the belt was nice and many long road rides in the drizzle have really got me back in the mood for racing, but what you really need is a freezing cold, wet Sunday with two separate XC rides planned to sort the men from the boys.

“Thou shall not wear waterproofs, for the pros do not ergo it is not the way of the righteous rider.”

Some riders on Sunday had decided against the above rule, but crucially none of them had broken the much more serious rule of never, under any circumstance, being seen wearing or in possession of a Yellow Jacket of Authority. These day-glo high visibility garments are meant only for road workers (who need them) and British Cycling Officials (who don’t, but enjoy the sense of security and purpose that the YJoA brings). They are also a crucial part of the uniform that slack-jawed simpletons employ along with the matching helmet cover.

“Harden the F%$k up.”

Ant had elected for a pair of shorts which was a wise choice as it made him look the most pro of all of us – this also led to him to develop knee pain which in line with the suffering rule, allowed him to use the phrase, “I rode the last 3km in complete agony”. He should be praised for truly getting into the spirit of the ride by having a strong but uncomfortable day out.

Ben and Hugh went home in a relatively happy state. This fact itself obviously conflicts the general ambiance we are looking to achieve, but fear not for it’s easy to grasp suffering from a happy experience. By explaining to lay people that whilst they were tucked up on the sofa with the Sunday papers, you were out systematically breaking both your bike and body; even the most dismissive of non-rider shall feel like a gormless peasant in front of a king as you tell your epic tale. It’s important to build in enough references to thoroughly unpleasant weather and nasty climbs to really accentuate the generally low level of comfort you felt.

Simon also rode well and although he didn’t suffer at the time he has since cut a large part of his finger by inserting it between his disc rotor and calliper – I can speak here from personal experience and thoroughly recommend this style of self inflicted pain. The beauty of it is that it not only hurts like hell at the time, it continues to hurt every time you catch it on anything for weeks after. This makes you look much more impressive in front of colleagues, friends and potential dates by giving you the chance to tell both the initial story and explain away the constant grimacing. Good effort Simon.

I was quite happy to ride in the icy drizzle and completely nailed the steepest slippery climb with my thoroughly unsuitable singlespeed. However I quickly realised that there was a chance to show my level of commitment to the other men folk of the ride, by announcing that I would be continuing my ride in a second and slightly more epic location. They heartily agreed that I was in fact both over ambitious and maybe witless, but I quelled their doubts by explaining that the further riding would be crucial to my plans to completely dominate the lower leagues of literally some sport races this coming summer. Naturally they came around to my way of thinking and congratulated me on my level of commitment to mediocre results. “Chapeau”, Lance would have said, had he been there, probably.

After a brief change of gloves and shoes I headed out to meet another rider for the second part of my ride. Carl was equally well prepared for the elements and we briefly congratulated each other on our choice of summer XC kit teamed up with a Gilet (the official non-waterproof gear sanctioned by The.Æight.Bicycle.Cømpany for use in wet/cold/dead weather). Please note that Gilet is pronounced gill-let and never jill-a, which is how foreigners and try-hards pronounce it – if you’re old school it’s also appropriate to use the term vest.

Within two laps we’d both got through a set of brake pads and quickly replaced them before riding another lap of Bedgebury’s red route. Safe in the knowledge that we’d done a good days work we got back onto the road and headed for home. Usually this would be via the pub, but due to our fully saturated state we elected for a beer at mine. Happily as I consumed a pint of Sussex ale my muddied vision returned and we agreed Sunday had been thoroughly owned. We look forward next time, as I’m sure you do.




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