Road cycling adverts - they're all the same. Long, smooth roads. Focused, rippling muscle-man riders speeding down stunning descents. Lycra clad skinny minis grimace-smiling up the inclines and flushing with visible pride at the crest of the mountain.
Though we do enjoy all of those things - and more - when we swing a leg over a road bike, most of us know that it's a rather rosy version of the reality.
Here's a look at some of the harsher facts of road cycling (though, of course, we love it anyway...)
Well, this one kind of had to come first, didn't it? Potholes are at best annoying, and at worst dangerous. Roadies riding in a group will point them out to each other, so those following have an advance warning - but there really are some roads where it feels like you'd be better of just continuously pointing.
WTF is WRONG with you, little feathered creatures?
We're riding along, minding our own business, when you decide to fly full pelt at our front wheel. We try to adjust our line of travel, and you freak out and follow. I once killed a bird with my front wheel in a time trial (felt awful, but it was hardly my fault, the creature was determined!) - and I remember chuckling at the note next to a results sheet once that read 'BIRD ATTACK' next to the name of a guy who was, admittedly, pretty down on his expected time.
Birds: we don't want to hurt you. Let's live in peace.
The kind that may, or may not, hide a huge pothole (see: pet hate number one) and will almost certainly result in wet feet, ankles and calves. Just whatever you do, resist the urge to un-clip as you sail through. It might make a funny picture but you've also halved the purchase you have on the bike in one fell swoop.
Numb Feet and Hands
Let us make one thing very clear: even the best gloves and overshoes in the world will not save you from getting cold and numb feet and hands over a long winter ride. Quality hand and foot warmers will reduce the sting, and hold it off for longer. But if you're going out for three hours, and it's sub 5 degrees, you can wave goodbye to feeling in your outer most extremities unless you take extra precautions.
Road cyclists should wave at other cyclists: fact. If you're mid effort or working really hard, a nod will suffice. But failing to acknowledge another person on two wheels on the road is basically really rude. With the influx of new cyclists over the last few years (which we're very glad for - welcome!) the waving/nodding tradition has been watered down, and we hate it when some riders sail past without any acknowledgment.
Drivers who Seem to Want to Join in
The highway code states that drivers should give 1.5 metres of passing room when overtaking a cyclist, or group of cyclists. But some drivers seem to want to get closer - do they want to join in?
Even worse is when riding in a group - usually two abreast to shorten the line and make it easier for drivers to pass - and the driver overtakes half the group and forces themselves into a gap before accelerating past the next group. The result is that those behind have to brake suddenly to let the panic stricken driver in (no doubt they've had to barge in because they've not taken account of oncoming traffic). The riders behind the car are forced to draft off the vehicle, for fear of losing their mates ahead - and not everyone is comfortable riding off a bumper. The whole situation would be made much easier if drivers would just wait until there was enough room available before they overtake a group of cyclists.
Sailing down a descent, pushing the envelope of acceptable speed - and then suddenly - AH! A sharp bend you absolutely weren't expecting. You feather the front brake and just about make it round, in time to hear the invariable clatter as a following friend hits the deck.
Related: hire bikes with euro brake configuration.
Speaking of which, nearly all roadies recongnise 'that' noise. The sharp exhalation of metal on rubber, an almost audible slide and the clatter of an expensive frame hitting the tarmac. Ouch.
Carrying a Punctured Tube
Tube, pump, food, packable, money, phone, keys. There's already quite a lot squeezed into those three rear pockets of a roadies jersey. But it all fits in happy equilibrium, most of the time. Until you puncture, and have to swap your 'ready to go', nicely folded tube for a punctured one that will never roll as flat as unused rubber. Take it home and fix it, or chuck it in the nearest bin? Up to you...
Co2 Canisters that Fail
C02 canisters - tiny little bullet shaped devices that can inflate a tyre to 12o psi in seconds - are a mega useful invention. But every adapter is different. And unless you're riding on knackered tyres, you probably only use yours once in a blue moon. And sometimes that means forgetting exactly how it works.
My other-half's favourite memory to recount is the time that after 50 miles of riding in the rain, I pretty much chucked an exploding CO2 canister at him with the words "make it work!!" Needless to say, it was too late and I had to revert to spending 10 minutes relentlessly chugging away with a standard pump. Now I only take Co2 when I know I want to be able to ride at 100psi - otherwise I'll stick with my reliable pump - at least if I have to check it at someone it'll actually be effective!
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