A View in Wales

Guest Article: Liberty, Egality, Fraternity

Guest Article: Liberty, Egality, Fraternity

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I was asking earlier, how do you know if you are a cyclist? One sure sign is when one brings a bike on almost all vacations. If a vacation does not include some cycling, is it a vacation? If you asks that, you are a cyclist. Hopefully this has been a long-term condition and all other vacationeers accept this with a shrug, yeah, a damn Velominatus.

VLVV, Gianni

My bike doesn’t usually come on holiday with us, but the dog was coming so it was only fair I bring a friend too.

I packed the bike in the car first, so that if harsh space-making decisions had to be made it would be easier to tell the kids we’d no more room for their clothes.

Holidays are about renewal and while it wasn’t part of the plan, this holiday renewed my appreciation for what a great sport we cyclists enjoy.

Truly I can’t think of anything else which is so social and welcoming, yet can be done for hours in solitary isolation if that’s what you want.

Before going to Wales I had found a local club, Swansea Wheelers CC, and contacted them to make sure it was OK to join the Sunday run, mentioning that I was a regular club rider and racer. Sure, no problem.

So I arrive at the start point, which is the ground of the local football club. As befits their recent promotion to the English Premier League it’s a modern venue called Liberty Stadium.

Chris 1

I think it’s something to do with a property development company but that aside it’s a uniquely appropriate place to start a ride. The principles of Liberty, Egality and Fraternity fired the French Revolution and it’s surely no coincidence the same nation is a bastion of cycling.

In what other sport could I turn up, an unknown transient, and join in just like the locals. A recreational football player in town for the week wouldn’t get a game at the Tuesday night 5-a-side. A golfer might get to play, if the club allowed it, but probably with other unattached players, hardly a social embrace.

On the ride people chat, ask questions about Dubai, and of course I get to find out about local rides as well as local attractions and places not so obvious from the tourism guides. One of their members is still doing the Sunday run in his 70s and he’s no back-marker either. There are also some racing guys from the local university club. But age and ability are put aside as we climb, sprint and roll around south Wales in the spirit of Egality and Fraternity.

And it doesn’t stop there. Some others are available mid-week and so I have another ride booked in with Jonny, visiting the in-laws, and James who lives and works near where I’m staying. We connect afterwards over Strava and organise a trip to Black Mountain in the Brecon Beacons with a detour to take in Swansea’s Constitution Hill, a short sharp beast – the Welsh Angliru.

 

Chris2

 

Chris 3

 

Chris4

I’ve never met Jonny and James before, and I may never again – although I’d be delighted to, as they were thoroughly good riding companions – but there is no hesitation in the sharing of time and knowledge as we enjoy routes I would never have known otherwise.

As we depart Jonny says to look him up if I’m riding in Cornwall and I say the same to them if they are in Dubai. It’s genuine, based on a mere few hours of riding. I’ve had relationships with girlfriends that ended with less sincere promises.

As cyclists we often focus on the pros, and that’s another great part of our sport. We ride the same roads, the same bikes and sometimes even ride with them.

But as Velominati we know how a community can be built on shared interest. Even if they don’t have the badge and the username there are true Velominati everywhere.

 

// Guest Article // The Rides

  1. That hill looks like a leg-breaker. Good thing you had new friends with along to suffer through it together.

  2. @ChrisO

    ….In what other sport could I turn up, an unknown transient, and join in just like the locals….

    I never thought about that, but when I read that line the, realization of that truth put a big smile on my face.

  3. So true @ChrisO. You’ve had a good summer, experiencing the delights of Wales and the Scottish Highlands in your time home. The scenery will sustain you through another stint in Dubai.

    @Gianni it’s not a holiday for me unless it involves biking. The main early concern for Gran Canaria next week with only a 15kg luggage allowance is do I take both road shoes and mtb shoes? I’m partaking more in xc this year but will hit the tarmac in between. Do I ask the hire company to fit spds to the Synapse so I can fit in sufficient casual attire for the evenings? The answer is obvious, Rule #34, flip flops and travel wash.

  4. My holidays tend to be to the mountains in the winter but even then my mind is still with the bike and so I go out and hit the slopes in the evenings and skin up the mountain to maintain the V. It’s a very similar sort of oneness and tranquility setting a tempo uphill and the rewards can be amazing. We do have quite a bit of space so if anyone wants to guest with us in Colorado we will likely be out there for a couple of weeks in January.

  5. Several years ago I purchased a Ritchey Break-Away. Haven’t vacationed since without bringing a bike. Have also brought it on some longer business trips. Getting in to town a day early somewhere like Denver (so I can cheat in a long ride) really makes the week away worth it.

    Nicely written – I’ve often pondered how easy it is to fall in with a group on a century or other organized ride. Enjoy their company, appreciate the pull, all the while knowing I’m unlikely to see them again. Good stuff.

  6. @Timojhen

    I acquired a Ritchey Breakaway earlier this year. Same as you, I now can’t imagine traveling without it. Amazing piece of kit. Highly recommended.

    @ChrisO,
    Nice piece. Well said. Cheers!

  7. @ChrisO I also struggle with the idea of holidays without the bike (a holiday without the bike is a wasted oportunity. Fortunately, the kids are all shaping up nicely as cyclists and don’t mind that it might take a bit longer to get wherever we’re going because of the 6 bike trailer on the back of the car.

    The inclusivity of cyclists never ceases to amaze me. Whether it’s been local shop rides in Florida, rides organised by campsite staff in France, Cogals or the Keeper’s Tour, I’ve never felt unwelcome. There are dickheads out there but they’re bar far outnumbered by people who may not call themselves Velominati but ride with the same basic ethos and love of the bike.

    BTW did the Swansea bunch let you ride without your helmet? You could have been killed.

  8. @Chris

    BTW did the Swansea bunch let you ride without your helmet? You could have been killed.

    Ha, and this was the ride where I came off right at the end, 5 metres from home, and sliced open my elbow. If only I’d been wearing a helmet.

    I didn’t mention it for fear of starting a you-know-what, but it was one of the other things that will forever give Swansea Wheelers a place in my heart.

    There’s about 30 people on the ride, every one of them wearing a helmet. Not a single person said anything. They didn’t even politely ask why. (I had checked their website too… no mention).

    I’ve noticed this difference between experienced, confident groups and those with newer, less experienced riders.

    A few weeks ago, on a ride which shall remain nameless, I turned up and as people were arriving and one guy I’d never met rolled over and literally said “Morning… no helmet ?” I gave him a look, told him not to start like that and rode off.

  9. @Chris

    BTW did the Swansea bunch let you ride without your helmet? You could have been killed.

    Ha, and this was the ride where I came off right at the end, 5 metres from home, and sliced open my elbow. If only I’d been wearing a helmet.

    I didn’t mention it for fear of starting a you-know-what, but it was one of the other things that will forever give Swansea Wheelers a place in my heart.

    There’s about 30 people on the ride, every one of them wearing a helmet. Not a single person said anything. They didn’t even politely ask why. (I had checked their website too… no mention).

    I’ve noticed this difference between experienced, confident groups and those with newer, less experienced riders.

    A few weeks ago, on a ride which shall remain nameless, I turned up and as people were arriving and one guy I’d never met rolled over and literally said “Morning… no helmet ?” I gave him a look, told him not to start like that and rode off.

  10. About getting into a community just like that by locals. I also experienced that in the climbing (not alpinism) community all over Europe. I so fondly rebel the times going to the south of France all by myself and arriving at a camping or climbing area. Within an hour I was invited or otherwise joined in the climbing on site. So yes, that community feeling is cool and I like experiencing it on the road/dirt also with 2 wheels under me.

  11. @ChrisO Great article about great experiences. Truth about being able to join up with jocks of like minds in remote locals. Very pleasant. Your helmet allergy continues to puzzle. You have explained your reasons numerous times of this site yet they never convince. You are such an accomplished rider/racer that I fear the law of averages may unfortunately catch up with you. I am no where near your category but I can hold my own. I recently rode with my son’s girlfriend in a charitable fundraiser. Part of the course included a section on a recreational trail. As we approached a regional road (marked by a 6×6 post) I recognized a family standing by the trail cheering on the participants. I greeted them and took my mind off the post momentarily. I knew I would miss the post, but failed to see a curbed island on the other side! Even at a slow pace it was too late. I avoided the curb but down I went, bike up in the air still clipped to my feet. By some miracle, the only things damaged were my pride and the banana in my back pocket. My helmet was unscathed…this time. In a long-winded fashion my point is this, I enjoy reading your articles/posts too much. Wear your helmet

  12. @Chris

    @ChrisO I also struggle with the idea of holidays without the bike (a holiday without the bike is a wasted oportunity. Fortunately, the kids are all shaping up nicely as cyclists and don’t mind that it might take a bit longer to get wherever we’re going because of the 6 bike trailer on the back of the car.

    As the sole male in a family of sartorially-intensive women, lacking trunk space, and being unwilling to hang my bikes from the back of the car as if from meathooks, my top prerequisite for a vacation spot is proximity to a shop that rents sweet bikes.

    Besides, it helps me to scratch my n+1 itch without shooting $$$ out of a cannon. Last vacation I rented a Surly Moonlander, their Fat Bike, took it riding on the beach and some sandy singletrack, and committed innumerable and egregious rule violations in the process. It was a blast. I’d never in a million years buy one back home, but for a week’s fooling around? Sweet.

    The inclusivity of cyclists never ceases to amaze me. Whether it’s been local shop rides in Florida, rides organised by campsite staff in France, Cogals or the Keeper’s Tour, I’ve never felt unwelcome. There are dickheads out there but they’re by far outnumbered by people who may not call themselves Velominati but ride with the same basic ethos and love of the bike.

    Concur – I can show up for a group ride with folks I’ve never met, and by route’s end we’re fast friends. This is doubly true on very long rides, where by mile 200 you’re doing anything you can to distract yourself from the pain, and the talk becomes quite frank, very like when one is Charismatically Poisoned. You get to know people very well very fast. Sometimes too well – secrets get spilled.

    Dickheads have a way of being nicer once you’ve ridden their asses off your wheel a time or two. Bonus points if done on your 25lb steel bike(n1-3) with the 32-spoke Open Pros vs their Carbon Craplet resplendent with Zipps and power meter. Brent’s recent article Vetting the Fred comes to mind.

  13. Funnily enough the latest VMH just took a holiday to NY. Being from Oz with a passion of outrigger canoeing she contact the local club in NY and they took her out for a training session round the statue of liberty! Having said that she rides too and there appear to be a great number of similarities between the two sports. Obviously putting aside that her canoe has no Big Dog and my velo does not float…well…actually I have not tested that yet, it is quite light…

  14. Pleasure riding with you Chris! Hopefully get to do again in the future – who knows!

  15. Great story, ChrisO! Glad you got to meet and make some new friends. Very cool.

    The only time I’ve ridden a Colnago, tubulars or one piece bars/stem was when I was working at the National Archives and a guy I “met” on a cycling forum invited me out on a ride. And, lent me his Colnago! Damn, that was fun.

  16. @ChrisO A random dude joined our club ride part way in about a month ago. After appropriately ignoring him for a couple kms, most of us introduced ourselves and found out he was visiting from New Zealand (that’s a long way from Ontario). Since he had a few more days in town, we let him know about the best local roads and routes as he was hoping for a few more rides before he headed back. I hope he felt as good as you did after your Wales experience.

  17. Guilty – where I go, the bike goes!

  18. @The Pressure

    @ChrisO Wear your helmet

    ChrisO needs no-one to defend his choice, but really – why be so prescriptive? Why not write “If I were you I’d wear a helmet”? I don’t want this to be a helmet yes/no debate (we’ve had many!) so all I want to do is make 2 points:

    All of us make risk assessments (whether formally or not), and that’s it. Some friends of mine refuse to cycle in central London as their assessment is that it is far too dangerous. I disagree, but no way am I going to say to them “ride with me in central London tomorrow”.

    Secondly – my risk assessment of cycling in central London is OK, provided my feet are not clipped in. I could not/would not ride there fixed to my bike, so the few times my proper bikes are in town off the clips come to be replaced by normal pedals. My daily ride is a Boris Bike so the question usually doesn’t arise. But again – who am I to lecture the vast majority I see daily who do clip in?

    David

  19. I’ve noticed this difference A few weeks ago, on a ride which shall remain nameless, I turned up and as people were arriving and one guy I’d never met rolled over and literally said “Morning… no helmet ?” I gave him a look, told him not to start like that and rode off.

    I hope this wasn’t the Cogal? Not cool if it was. Headwear is a personal choice.

  20. @JohnB

    I’ve noticed this difference A few weeks ago, on a ride which shall remain nameless, I turned up and as people were arriving and one guy I’d never met rolled over and literally said “Morning… no helmet ?” I gave him a look, told him not to start like that and rode off.

    I hope this wasn’t the Cogal? Not cool if it was. Headwear is a personal choice.

    No, no, no… definitely not. A local ride in the UAE. I was delighted to see Euan also sporting a cap at the Cogal.

  21. @ChrisO Cool.

  22. Agree re the fraternity of the bike.

    A month or two ago I stayed in Nederweert, small town in sthn. Netherlands. After a query on the TWC Nederweert fbook page I was able to meet them for their Sunday recovery ride, a quick chat and I’m in the right group for 3hrs of dutch backroads which I would never have navigated my way around.

    Had the pleasure of repeating it a forthnight later.

    My only problem that the ride finishes with everyone turning off in their respective directions and no group recovery ale so that I could appropriately thank them for their hospitality.

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