Yesterday afternoon we were in a local supermarket when I bumped into a friend of mine who casually enquired if I had been out for a cycle that morning . I often wonder what image non-cyclists have when they ask that question . Of course it is a conversation piece when they know that you are ‘into the cycling ‘ but the picture that is imagined and the actual ‘cycle’ itself can be two very different things .
I think that people have a picture of a group of fellows on shiny bicycles and tight clothing ambling through the lush green rolling countryside stopping for picnics along the way . Time is whiled away admiring the daiseys on the side of the road and looking up at the robin red breasts in the trees . Polite conversations revolve around the ozone layer and world peace . Perhaps it is time to set the record straight . Yesterday will make a good example .
Nine am. I look out the patio door and see black clouds over the Comeraghs . The trees are bent over and it’s raining . 16 month old Kate is looking dubiously at my attire . She still can’t get used to Daddy in that funny looking outfit . She holds up her teddy bear and says Daaa-deee Teee-deee . She is learning new words every day and I think that it might be nice to stay home this morning and spend the time playing with my children after working all week and not seeing as much of them as I would like but no , it’s Sunday morning , the group are on their way up the road and if I don’t go out this morning I will suffer all the more next Sunday .
As I roll down the hill from my house Kevin ‘puncturellie’ Shelly passes and I catch up to him as we head down the by-pass . Then we see someone else up ahead . Brian Alton is clipping along and it takes a while to catch up to him . We are now three and just as we approach Kilheffernan roundabout the group enters from the other side and we latch on the back . There’s a big crowd out with over fifty in the group .
At first there’s a good hard shoulder so everyone keeps well in and there’s no disruption to traffic but as we approach the Bulmers factory and the new traffic islands , a car decides to take a chance and ends up having to come to a complete stop in the middle of the road as the road narrows to just the width of a car , without fifty cyclists on the inside . This girl learns her lesson but is then overtaken by a confused peugeot driver who thinks that continuous white lines are a monorail for their inside tyres as can be seen below .
Next came the roundabout which can often be a contentious item for a group of cyclists to negotiate . The problem is that when the front of the group approaches a roundabout and there is nothing coming they proceed to go around and everyone else follows on . But if half the group has gone through and a car comes around should the rest of the group stop or keep going ? In theory they should of course stop , but in practice the correct course of action isn’t quite so straight forward . Most roundabouts are a melting pot of smooth tarmac , spilled diesel and left behind skid and wheel-spin rubber . So in effect they are like ice on any kind of wet or damp day . If someone in the middle decides to obey the rules of the road and stop they run the very likely danger that someone may rear end them . This is exactly what happened on the Bulmers roundabout yesterday as six of the group tasted tarmac . Luckily no-one was hurt and all were quickly back up and on their bikes but I still can’t say if the first rider should gave braked or not .
The next piece of drama came very shortly afterwards at the next roundabout . Some wanted to go towards Cashel , others wanted to do Ballymac whilst more again wanted to do Clogheen . A few shouts , a few more swerves and the group headed in towards town which narrowed it down to Ballymac or Clogheen .
This indecision created some tension between a few riders and ‘ the one who sometimes says too much ‘ found himself in an argument with ‘ the one who breaths fire ‘ and before he knew it he was being invited to settle the matter off the bike at the side of the road . Sensibly he declined the offer even when ‘the one who breaths fire ‘ pulled over and stopped . Less was said by him for a while after that .
Next up came the Dungarvan road junction . More confusion as half went left and half went straight on . The groups were now a more manageable size and the pace was steady-hard on out over knocklofty as the group that I was in headed towards clogheen . What we didn’t realise was that a few of the others had turned and had decided to follow us on and were in pursuit without us realising it . I was at 180 bpm going over the top of Knocklofty and when I hit the front with Geoff after Grange I had to dig deep to keep it going into the ferocious headwind .
Just as we were dropping down into Ardfinnan someone shouted that there was a group coming up behind and we eased up to let them get back on . The chase to end all chases had been going on behind as we rode on oblivious to it . Going out the wood road ‘The Nurse’ Molowney was putting in some savage turns and had the chase group lined out in hot pursuit . Approaching Knocklofty hill ‘Coca Cola Kelly ‘ ( the real thing ) went to the front and controlled it on the climb to get the whole group over together . Just as they crested the climb and ‘ The Nurse ‘ hit the front once more and as he was winding it up again a shout went up from behind . ‘The woodchopper ‘ Cronin was claiming to be getting cowld and was worried that they would never again see home if they didn’t drive it on a bit . This was gristle to the fire of ‘The Nurse ‘ as he dropped it into the twelve and was down so low on the drops that he was almost chewing the stem . He sacrificed himself for the cause and was doing bit and bit with Coca Cola and a few others until he was almost in need of medical assistance himself .
Things seemed to calm within the enlarged group leaving Ardfinnan as the wind grew wilder and the rain grew heavier . Passing Castlegrace hailstones were added to the mixture and red pockmarks began to appear on the mud-caked faces of all who were present . In Clogheen we turned back towards newcastle and the tailwind launched a few tails in the air as the speed rose to over 45kph . A mobile phone was dug out of a pocket at the rear of the group and a request was made for the number of one of the riders at the front to give him a ring to slow it down a bit . Eventually it took a puncture near Graigue to calm the mood for a brief interlude .
Newcastle seemed like a blur as we rocketed through and on the drag out of it an observation was made that the first race of the season had come very early this year . The turn back into the wind at the Beehive settled things back down again and I had enough left in the legs to make it back up the hill home in one piece once we were back in Clonmel .
So , whilst ‘going for a cycle ‘ can mean many things to many people , for most ‘serious ‘ cyclists it is a combination of pain , pleasure , suffering and satisfaction and sometimes more entertainment than an episode of Killinaskully !
To see exactly where we went on the spin and how unfit I am click here