The Cyclist

Nutcase or normal? You decide…

    As I ventured outside this morning, I was smashed in the face by an ice-cold gale. It was dark and drizzling. I was shivering (admittedly I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt). It was not the kind of morning when you enjoy being outside without warm clothing. I climbed in the car and started the engine, reaching for the temperature control as I did. I was chuffing freezing. There was nobody else around- it was 6.10 in the morning and even the early birds couldn’t be arsed yet. It was that bad.
    Each morning that I drive to work early, I see a lone cyclist on his way (I assume) to work. That doesn’t sound so bad, but bear this in mind- I see him EVERY morning, regardless of wind, rain, snow, ice, sun. It doesn’t matter. He is also always wearing offensively short shorts. This means he is the bravest, toughest and downright most stupid man on earth. No question.
    I usually see him at the same time, just by an old quarry where there is a series of bends in the road. This is a pretty elevated spot and is well exposed to the horrible winter gales that batter us from the north Atlantic. That section of the ride must be the worst- it is after a mile or so of constant incline, and not long enough into the ride to be thoroughly warmed up. It must be around that spot where most people would think ‘f*ck it, I will go back and get the car’.
    On a morning like this morning, I would forgive anyone for taking the car to work. Now before anyone starts, I know there are FAR colder places on earth- don’t think I am suggesting Cornwall is the coldest, harshest environment on the planet, but this early in the morning, when you are not used to sub-zero temperatures, it feels like it. Knowing that all around you people are still tucked up in bed, warm and sleeping is soul-destroying.
    I suppose the warm, sunny mornings when there is no wind, the sun is rising and the birds are singing are fine- I imagine cycling to work is actually a pleasurable experience, knowing you have already completed a challenge before most people have even woken up. You have benefited your mind and body, kept the environmental activists happy by not filling the air with carbon and probably enjoyed a gentle ride with the birds. This morning was no such morning.
    I rounded the bend by the quarry to be greeted by the familiar flashing red light just ahead. It was foggy, so I couldn’t see the cyclist well. When I drew level, I glanced across to see him up out of his seat, teeth gritted and leaning forward into the wind. He looked in agony, but carried on. I suppose he needed to- you can’t rely on anything else to get you to work when you choose cycling as your means of locomotion.
    I wonder what spurs people like the cyclist on? He trudges through the elements daily, all the way through the winter. I wouldn’t have thought he is training for a particular event, as he does the same ride every morning and has done for at least two years (the time I have seen him). He may not be able to drive, but then there are buses. I know he works somewhere in town as I see him ride by as I open the gym. He doesn’t know who I am, as usually when I see him I drive by, whilst he has at least another 7 miles to plough through. He may be doing it for the health benefits, but there are other, warmer times of the day to cycle!
    I am not sure I will ever know his reasons, but if one day I happen to see him in another setting, I will be sure to ask him. I wonder if he knows he can be fit without having to subject himself to temperatures that would make a penguin shiver?
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