Friday, 19 April 2019
Reading time 03 minutes 38 seconds
Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling – James E Starrs
There is an old me and a new me.
My buddy Fi called old me ‘Drunk Boy’. My friends refer to new me as ‘Boring Boy’.
Despite being boring I’ve not out grown doing ridiculous things and last week I proved Friday night is still party night as I cycled from London to Whitstable. That’s right, on a Friday night.
Cycling overnight is the safest way to do this 68-mile journey and it had been meticulously planned by a group called the Fridays. They did such a good job I decided to make it as difficult for myself as possible. I’ve done a few overnight rides before, but my brain must have removed the memories of extreme pain in the same way as it does for some females around childbirth.
The ride started from midnight on the South Bank. It was freezing and I was wearing layers of lycra, which included my new bib shorts. For the uneducated bib shorts are like a leotard in that the shorts are not held up via your waist but with straps over your shoulders. Apparently, they are all the rage in the Tour de France.
To get them off you need to remove all of your top layers and it fractionally crossed my mind how funny it would be trying to get this lot off if you needed an urgent poo.
Once the ride was underway we cycled as a group and as it stretched out one of us would wait to let the people at the back know the correct way to go. We’d also stop every 5 miles or so to regroup. There was a nice mechanic at the back known as a tail end Charlie and he would help those with punctures but the regrouping would not leave until the Charlie had arrived. I later discovered this was not his real name.
The mechanic was so cool he wore a monocle and had a curly moustache. I asked him where he bought the monocle, as it looked modern, and without flinching he said, “the monocle shop”. What a time to be alive!
Cycling through South London in the dark isn’t pleasant. At one point we passed a group of youngsters who were in a dodgy underpass smoking something that wasn’t tobacco. As we rode towards them one guy looked at us and as he inhaled, he looked at his joint and thought this must be good stuff.
The freezing cold night and the miles rolled on. I could not feel my left foot, and I was like an opposite version of version of Christy Brown, and by 4am my hypochondria kicked in and I was convinced I’d lost it due to frost bite.
At the half way point we stopped at a church that had kindly opened its doors, baked some cakes and put the kettle on in return for a charitable donation. I ruined the film and book of ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ for the people at my table by saying that like Henry I was going to lose my feet.
This is where my second mistake was made. I demolished the best Victoria sponge cake I’d
ever eaten and drunk a lot of coffee. The first mistake was the day before when I got the look from the Mrs because I opted to eat too much fruit for dinner. I should have used the facilities but there was no time as I had wasted it spoiling a great book and terrible film.
We carried on cycling but shortly after the cream, in the double helping of cake, started to do what it does on those who no longer eat dairy products. That coupled with the accelerator of coffee started my stomach churning and at the same time the fruit decided it needed to also be heard.
I pressed on but my need to visit the toilet was growing. I’d held it in before although previously I’d not been cycling and pushing on my belly in every upwards leg stroke.
Next stop. Church. Not open. No toilet. Sweat. Not from exertion but from needing to release my bum cheeks. I tried to wee behind a tree but could not release those muscles for fear of the others joining in to see me carried away in a tsunami of my own making.
And on we cycled.
The sun rise was spectacular although this moment of joy was not to be enjoyed as I was concentrating on my predicament. At 7am we passed Morrisons. I wanted to stop but was almost at the back of the group and it would mean slowing the team down. A few minutes later we stopped again, and I should have at least asked why we stopped on a corner and not somewhere with toilets but I felt like I was in school and was determined to make it to the end of the day and not poo in my pants.
The next few hours were difficult, and I’ll be honest I had a few close calls.
And then as we entered the next town divine intervention happened. For a second, I thought I heard the angels singing but it was just a few fellow cyclists standing by a public toilet. I cycled up and gave a man my bike and asked him to look after it while I had a wee. I don’t even know if he was with our group but before he said yes I was inside. The public toilet was clean, and the cubicle was free, and my prayers had been answered.
By now my muscles had relaxed and I was moments away from satisfaction. As I went to pull down my trousers, an activity I had done thousands of times in the past, I was reminded I was wearing bib shorts and all the top layers would have to come off first. I whipped off my coat but forgot the Velcro wrist straps and became entangled in it. I could no longer put it back on or take it off and it had become like a strait jacket. I let out a cry. Should I shout and ask the guy outside to help? No, hang on, who would watch my bike?
I took a breath retraced my jacket steps and put it back on. This time I undid the Velcro and tried the zip but my hands were cold and could not grip the zip properly. Then my fingers woke up and off came the jacket, followed by the other jacket, the t-shirt, released the shoulder straps and finally my shorts came down. At that exact moment my legs touched the toilet seat in a sitting position and my relief was immediate.
There was no embarrassment at the huge sigh of relief I let out. It was a close run thing and I’d literally touched a lot of cloth to get into this position.
The Fridays are a great group who put in a lot of work to make fun free rides for everyone, if you’re a cyclist why not check them out; https://www.fnrttc.org.uk
Picture: Me at the half way point. I was very very cold.