Part of the N24 stretches the 20 kilometres from Carrick on Suir to Clonmel . Since I started cycling in 1986 I have travelled this road thousands of times in both directions in the company of many of Ireland’s greatest ever cyclists and also one of the worlds greatest ever .
The knowledge shared and advice given along with just keeping your eyes open to what is going on around you on this road must be the equivalent of a university degree in cycling .
Here are just a couple of the lessons learned on that road ;
Bend your elbows :
As a teenager when Ryaner rode up alongside you in the group, if you had your elbows locked you would get a light karate chop and a warning to bend your elbows . It’s not easy to do at first but over time has saved me from countless bouts of sore neck and shoulder muscles that seem to afflict other cyclists .
Stop bobbing up and down :
A great way to waste energy and to look ungainly on a bike is to be bobbing up and down like one of those nodding dogs apprentice hairdressers have on the back window of their Honda civics . Anthony O’G showed me how to eliminate this by placing my thumbs behind the tops of the bars beside the stem . Then by concentrating on not bobbing up and down it was all but eliminated in no time .
Ride over the top of the hill :
If you are at the front of the Carrick group heading over the top of Ballinaraha in early January and decide to ease up a bit and coast down the other side , the chorus of ‘ Ride on ‘ and ‘Ride down the hill ‘ in not so dulcet tones will get you pedalling again pretty quickly . This is a great habit for racing too . Many a race has been won by local riders who launched themselves from the front of a bunch going over the top of a climb when everyone else was taking a breather never to be seen again .
Drift of the back and kick hard within the last k :
Many a Carrick league race was won by lesser sprinters who knew where they stood drifting 10 bike lengths off the back of a 10 or 12 man break and sprinting passed the group at full speed with 500 meters to go . A moments hesitation by a few riders is all it takes to get enough of a jump to carry you to the line first .
Whatever you do , don’t throw the bike back :
When rising from the saddle to stand on the pedals do so gradually and don’t throw the bike back on top of the rider behind . If you do it once you are given the reflex title of ‘ fuckin eejit’ . Do it a second time and you become a ‘dangerous fuckin eejit’ a third offence will lead to a lonely spin home on your own .
To be a great cyclist you don’t have to be a bollix :
For a teenager, to cycle beside that years Paris-Roubaix winner , the green Jersey in the Tour de France among a multitude of other monumental victories and to have him ask with genuine interest how your training and racing is going is quite an experience . To overhear someone else tell Sean Kelly that he looks a lot like Sean Kelly and for him to go along with it by saying that ‘ it’s not the first time I’ve heard that ‘ is also very entertaining .
Everyone has a bad day :
There is not one rider in the group who has never had a bad day . We have all seen one another suffering at some stage . The important thing to do is to keep going and very soon a good day will come again and you will be at the front heading over the Pike once more .
Wash your bike :
If you don’t it is noticed and will be commented upon .
The group will never drop Vinnie Cronin :
No matter how shattered he looks at the beginning , middle or end of a spin and no matter what speed the group is doing he will always manage to hang on . But , If you are getting dropped be prepared for a comment like ‘ you might aswell put head between your legs and kiss your arse goodbye ‘ as he passes to put the final nail in your own coffin .
Call the holes :
If you see a pot hole or any obstruction on the road call it to warn the riders behind . It is a serious black mark if you don’t call a hole that someone behind rides into and gets a puncture in . If it’s on your left shout left , in the centre shout centre and if in doubt just shout ‘hole’ !
Do your turn at the front :
If there is a group of 30 plus out with only six or eight going through Iggy will get annoyed . You do not want to annoy Iggy !
Make friends :
There will be people that you would not recognise in normal clothing who will become some of your best friends on the bike . The ones you meet on and off the bike will be your friends for life . Value it !