Why do you still go when you know what you’re in for?

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Author Topic: Why? A poll


Why? A poll
« on: October 14, 2019 »
Reading accounts of the latest and last Friday Night Ride to the Coast of the year, one has to ask the epically simple question: Why?

To recap, there was rain, apparently not a deluge, but enough to summon an unkindess of puncture faeries.[1] Which was entirely predictable. Almost half of those who registered cancelled or just didn’t show. Those intrepid souls who did turn up were very late to their goal of Shoreham, splitting into more or less afflicted groups. A number peeled off for trains home before breakfast at the airport.

Puncture repair 101: Assemble a brain trust and question the very nature of punctures

Anybody who’s been on one of these rides knows there’s a lot of standing around involved. While that gets the antsy even antsier, it is, of course, an opportunity to get to know your fellow participants – part and parcel of the FNRttC to begin with. Still, it’s not unknown for this to be a mildly miserable experience in the rain. Especially in the rain waiting for a puncture to be repaired, and wondering nervously if you’re next.

Why would anybody want to go through all that?

Listen, I wanted to be there, too, but texted Adam the ride leader with what I only wish was a comical fabrication ("My bunny is sick").[2] This led to a conversation with my wife which we’ve had before, whereby she asked me what I’m asking you, dear reader. Her question was as rhetorical as mine may turn out to be, because she knows by now that I don’t generally have a good answer, good being defined here as an explicable reason for riding come what may.[3]

Because it’s there won’t do. Shoreham? Really? I’ve never been, but can’t imagine it’s Worthingit (sorry). Well, maybe it is. There were dinosaurs, after all.[4]

A well-earned breakfast is always good, but that can’t be it either.

Misery loves company loves misery? But few if any will ever admit to being miserable, at least in so many words.

So again, Why?

Eastbourne was my last wet FNRttC. It was honestly a challenge to enjoy, which is not to say I enjoyed the challenge, having long since banked many a memory along those lines. The main reason I did it was to help me finish a story for publication. I don’t regret going. But would I do it again, if there wasn’t that extra payoff? Erm…. yes. Because these rides are still good for me,[5] I think, and because they reliably provide grist for the mill.

Adam[6] posted a nice writeup with a whisper of mournfulness over the lack of cycling nous of some of his flock (don’t be afraid to pump up those tyres, people!). There was no answer to my question, unless "Keep on pedalling" counts. Maybe that will do. 

Credit: whoever took this photo, which was an inspired finishing touch

1. Collective noun nicked from ravens.
2. aka Leporidae domesticus.
3. Actually, it annoys her that the dates are immovable. That’s her big why.
4. As promised. Near the end of the album.
5. FNRt Ambivalence
6. Also featured here, speaking of epic. And he popped up here back in the mists of time. Then there's this; make of it what you will.

Re: Why? A FNRttC poll
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2019 »
I shall attempt to elucidate.

I've done several, too many perhaps, and certainly so many that I can't sort the memories into appropriate piles any more. Like laundry in a tumble dryer they are all mixed up. I've not done many this year, one only I think, but I'm confident I'll be back for more when I've sorted my priorities laundry.

Firstly, I do them because they are absurd. I love the absurdity of getting a train from home to central London, riding somewhere in the dark, often passing a mere few km's, or much less, from my front door and bed, and rocking up at the coast to drink beer at eight o'clock.  If the absurdity levels aren't high enough I'll go and do a parkrun, or ride home again. Though I've not yet reached the heights of a Friday Night Ride, a parkrun and a ride home. And that probably won't ever happen.

Then there is the group. I'm an extroverted, or outgoing, introvert. I like being alone with others. I like riding on my own in the middle of a group strung out over several hundreds of metres, with no one to talk to. I'm happy to stand and be a human-finger post in the pitch dark near Newdigate for 45 minutes in the small hours. Because I like to be a small part of something bigger.

Then there are the individuals. Friendship is born of trust born of shared experience. I'm not going to name names. Back in my pomp I forged a few life-long friendships with guys on the rugby pitch; they watched my back and I watched theirs, and blood was sometimes spilt and mixed in a common endeavour. So it is awheel with The Fridays. We avoid the spilling of blood, generally, but we watch each others backs, the tecs tec, the waymarkers waymark, those with spare working lights dole them out to those without, we sup in halls with strangers, and groupsave with strangers on the train, and we make friends. We apply our mutually complimentary skills and gifts and tools to those in need of complimentary repairs and fettling, and we make friends. The content of one hip flask is exchanged with knowing nod for the content of another and comparisons are made, and horizons broadened, and we make friends.  We blow up in the middle of Yorkshire and those who have known us from of old take us to one side, and with just precisely the right words, and a comforting arm on weary shoulders, we find our second wind, and we deepen our friendship.

Then there are the destinations.  I live in Sussex. Bognor, Brighton and Shoreham are on my doorstep. Yet I can rarely be arsed to ride to any of them. But riding to them through the night these oh so humdrum seaside towns and cities become magical places to be savoured and revelled in, whilst most others are still in bed.  York as a starting point - a grand day out, who cannot but love the juxtaposition of it being a destination that is also a starting point, and what man of a certain age and outlook can resist the National Railway Museum by day and the Minster by night? Whitstable, it becomes more gentrified each time I visit, and in visiting it I make it more gentrified.  But it's blooming lovely whether I go there by bike, by train or by car, but always at its best when raced to across the marsh. Sarfend. In a kilt. On a Brompton. Well, frankly, why not? A milkshake on Mumbles Pier is meet reward for a night well spent.

Then there are the lights and the nights and the sights. The sight of all those little red lights, some going blinky-blinky, strung out as the group climbs some hill. The Cathedral in Rochester. The drunks in whichever Essex town we pass through when the night-club closes. Riding at night, no nobbers in cars squeezing past with millimetres to spare. Safe to take the racing line along Lonesome Lane, clipping the apex of the bend on the wrong side of the road. The smiles on policemen's faces when they learn what we are up to, and no it isn't for charidee just for fun. Looking up and seeing lights in the sky and thinking "Shoot, I've got to get up there!"

I'll never ride LEL or PBP, but I have ridden from London to John O'Groats, something which I never thought I could do and could not have done without The Fridays. The same Fridays who taught me not only what it is possible for me to do on a bike but also who proved to me that I can enjoy doing it. The same Fridays some of whom have gone on to do ASTOUNDING things on a bicycle thus forcing me to concede that "never" is one heck of a long time.

So there we are. My unreasoned reasonings. For me the question to be answered will always be not so much "Why?" but rather "Why ever not?"

Love you all, ride safe

Greg (the grumpy one)

Re: Why? A FNRttC poll
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2019 »
Today seems an appropriate day on which to elucidate and answer.  It's the fifth anniversary of the wettest and coldest day I have ever spent on a bicycle.  From Cacabelos (it's near Ponferrada, if you remember the venue for 2014's world championships) to Fonfria (that's not near anywhere; it's a hamlet in the very eastern part of Galicia).  It started raining heavily at elevenses and it didn't let up for the rest of the day.  The last ten miles were at an elevation of 4000+ feet so that the rain turned to hail.  And I was there, suffering Type II Fun, because of the Fridays.  Because my companion was mmmmartin and we had become friends on the London to John O'Groats ride mentioned above and we'd agreed we'd cycle together across northern Spain.

So for me, FNRttC rides are all about friendship.  It's the most friendly of the five cycling clubs of which I'm a (paid-up) member.  Each ride is an opportunity to meet old friends and gain new ones.

The venues don't really matter: OK, Southend brings back memories from over fifty years ago (oh, the last time I did that one, I had dry feet because I cycled in wellies; got funny looks on Saturday lunchtime catching a train home north out of Euston in bright sunshine); Brighton seems iconic (although the trains out of that venue are always crowded); Barry Island is iconic too in its own way; Hull I like because of the Humber Bridge.  And so on.  But that's true of the club I ride with most weekends.  There can't be any cafés in Northamptonshire that we haven't visited more than once or many country lanes here I haven't been along before so the venue doesn't matter.

Three or four years ago, someone planning the next summer tour for The Fridays posted a poll on CycleChat. There were four or five different routes to choose from and vote for and at the bottom, instead of a venue, was the statement: "I don't mind where we go as long as it's with The Fridays."  That final option won the poll.

This year I don't think I've done any night rides with the club (hides head in shame).  But I've been on two tours: an unofficial one led by saddlesore from St Malo to the Loire and back to Caen/Ouistreham; and the official one Dublin - Wicklow Mountains - Slieve Bloom Mountains - Dublin led by GordonP.  Both inclusive, plenty of regrouping, and meticulous organisation.  I've reconnected with old friends and made a new one.

P.S. Lovely writing @workload!  I agree.  Sometimes the best sights are those few miles alone, just stars above and not a red light or white light in sight.  The exercise of mutual skills, in which any contribution I've made has been repaid above and beyond.  The borrowing of someone's spare rear light (thanks Adam!)  And always the group being the group.

Re: Why? A FNRttC poll
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2019 »
Why?  Such a simple question.  The answer less so.  You may as well ask 'Why ride a bike?'.  (Or for some FNRers, a trike, a bent, a tandem, a BMX or yet to be spotted by me, a unicycle).

We are all different, have different proclivities and thereby different reasons.  You noted them yourself so eloquently in 'Carpe Noctem'.

Because it's there?  Not an unreasonable, albeit clichéd, response.  And another cliché:  it's not the destination, it's the journey.  Clichés become what they are because there is a semblance of truth lurking there, like the unseen tarmac around the upcoming bend.  It is the potential for adventure, for the unexpected.

For me, originally it was the challenge; now I find satisfaction urging others to find one more pedal stroke as they hurt to climb what may seem an unattainable summit, their Everest perhaps.  It is also many of the things mentioned above. 

It is also the scenery.  Of Blake's green and pleasant.  The glory of seeing the dark sky start to glow pink and orange and finally emerge into a bright morning.  Yet this rarely happens.  I have taken part in over 10 rides to Brighton; the route is essentially the same and yet each one is different.  Different time of year, different climatic conditions, different folk.  The road between Turners Hill and Handcross is one of my favourite sections to Shoreham; from the top of the Sussex Weald there are magnificent views to the south.  Yet these were non-existent on friday; a heavy mist hung dankly, seemingly barely above the lush fields, noir-ishly atmospheric and yet did not deter my enjoyment of that sector.

It is a group thing.  I have ridden solo late at night and before sunrise, yet this not the same as a Fridays Ride.  Sociologists state we are social animals, so here we are grouped together on a Friday.  Ultimately, it is the one central piece of everyone's Venn diagram mentioned above in one way or another: the people on the ride.

Next time you visit your local therapist, ask them why.


Re: Why? A FNRttC poll
« Reply #4 on: October 16, 2019 »
This has been a pleasant surprise, thank you. However, my question wasn’t so much why do the FNRttC as it was why do it when it's so filthy out. I was curious if people are still getting enough of what they want out of the ride to make it worthwhile under almost any conditions. It would appear you are, to put it mildly.

When my wife, concerned about the worst the sky can throw at us,* asks me why the organisers don’t change the dates, I suggest it’s because these things are decided well in advance, and people make plans and arrange their schedules accordingly.

She has since come around to the view that the British (neither of us are natives) are so consigned to the weather doing what weather does here that they feel they must carry on regardless. In this regard I feel honorarily British (having the passport isn’t quite enough) – see what I went through on my way to John o' Groats.

London to Shoreham  Photo credit Jenny Hung

*When riding solo I wear earphones, so I tell her hey, no worries. Just don’t click here.

No man is safe

PS. My quest to turn this board into a clubhouse reminds me of Tom Hanks on Cast Away trying to get a fire going, only the odds of a victory dance are somewhat more remote.