There is an elephant in the room, ‘The Gabbling MAMIL’.
(My wife actually just checked with me what MAMIL meant… I’m not sure she’s convinced by the name, but I think it’s perfect)
Gabbling – to talk rapidly and unintelligibly (though I’ll do my best to manage this)
MAMIL – Middle Aged Man In Lycra (I’m a cyclist, and otherwise as defined)
Consider this the departure of The Gabbling MAMIL. As with all good journeys (including bike rides), the first step is leaving the front door, or departing. I am sure that we could debate whether the first step in a journey is deciding to go on a journey at all, or perhaps making preparations through meticulous planning… but as my friend rightly pointed out to me today, that’s all very good, but the journey doesn’t start until you get moving… in this case it was ‘start writing’.
And so, here we are with the first words of The Gabbling MAMIL. Regardless of the starting point of a journey, they all have a purpose. And this is a problem, as the purpose of The Gabbling MAMIL is not really clear even to the author. The closest I can get is that I greatly enjoy writing, talking and engaging with people on things I am interested in, and over the last 8 years, cycling has become my passion and is the focus of this blog. I can’t promise to stay entirely on topic, though if you are here for highbrow thought and discussion of current affairs, please ‘leave via the nearest exit’ immediately.
I have learned many lessons and have had a few experiences that while not unique, I am looking forward to sharing, as I think some may benefit from (educational, amusement or just killing 10 minutes while ‘otherwise engaged’). I am not one for boasting, and I certainly would never profess to being expert in anything, let alone cycling. I am not entirely sure it’s possible to be an ‘expert’ on ‘cycling’… it’s a broad field that means so much to so many, in so many different ways. And so with that in mind, I am resisting trying to ‘pigeon hole’ The Gabbling MAMIL, and would say, it’s for anyone who finds it interesting (not a bad place to start!).
If you’re a pro racer, have worked in a bike shop for 20 years, or just ‘don’t like my style’, I don’t think that this will be for you, though I could be pleasantly surprised. If you’re relatively new to cycling, with a growing interest and feel some trepidation about what you’re getting into, The Gabbling MAMIL may be of interest (or even, use!) to you. I’m not going to start with a cycling CV. You don’t need to know my resume, and frankly I am not one for self-gratification. My intent is to share my love of cycling and potentially inspire in terms of how far their cycling can take them – physically and metaphorically.
I’m certainly not here to ask you to admire my achievements, perhaps not least as compared to many, my achievements are truly modest. However, if my current-self had a brief encounter with my ‘8 years ago-self’ to tell me what I’d be doing / have done on my bike, I would only have assumed that at some point in the following years, things had gone badly wrong and I’d become addicted to hallucinogenic substances. It’s also likely that I would be questioning the merits of the message given its delivery through the use of time travel. However, time travel only seems as unlikely today, as the ride that I popped out for this morning would have seemed 8 years ago.
For sure, I will share some of my experiences, some to illustrate learnings and some purely for comedic value. I will however share up front that cycling has changed my life. For effect at this point, you should really be pressing play on some ‘Coldplay’, though please let’s not go as deep as ‘Fix You’ or ‘Trouble’, I certainly wasn’t dying. I was however in the worst shape of my life, at 5’10” and 14 stone, prone to every sniffle that went around, and on reflection looked / felt terrible.
So where did it all start? Well, at least in part, as a legacy of the 2012 Olympics and the Tour De France, when cycling’s resurgence in the UK really got rolling with the incredible summer of Sir Brad. I know that in the eyes of many of the cycling fraternity who ‘were into cycling before it was cool’, this alone means, I am not cool. I am ok with that. I don’t pretend to be, and most of the time on my bike I look a cross between a roadworker and Ronald McDonald, so ‘cool’ I most certainly am not.
Back to 2012… I had a couple of friends who had started doing a bit of cycling, and they said it was good fun, and that I was missing out. I had disposed of my last road bike a couple of years before. It was a mint Raleigh Record Sprint that my parents bought me for Christmas in the mid 90’s with a magnificent Reynolds frame. I am very aware now that I should never have let it go, but I really didn’t know what I had, and so disposed of it and instead kept an awful Claud Butler mountain bike. Therefore, faced with the prospect of ‘the road’, off I went to Halfords and came home with a team GB colour scheme Carrera Virtuoso, costing about £300 if my middle-aged memory serves me right. While in hindsight it was far too small, it did perhaps represent the single most sensible thing I’ve done in cycling – ‘dipping my toe’ gently.
The first rides were, as the first times of doing any new hobby are, a steep learning curve. Heading out for my first double digit mile rides, armed with a Lucozade packed 750ml bottle and a ruck sack with food supplies (fortunately stopping short of Kendal mint cake), I came home after one hour, exhausted, panting, sweating with a sore bum and having consumed more calories than I had burned. But… I quickly understood, that this was fun!
I had no idea what direction my cycling was going to take and nor did I have any goals at that point, but knew I was ‘getting into it’. I am well renown in my group of friends for trying everything (except rugby, and now is definitely too late), being pretty good at some things, and not sticking with anything. All of that changed when cycling got completely under my skin. In fact, I had an epiphany this year, when I answered a question that I didn’t even know I was actually asking… ‘I am a cyclist!’. I’m not sure where this transformation occurred, why I hadn’t realised earlier when everyone else had, or even why it was important to know. I thought cycling was just something I ‘did’, but it really is so much more and has become a significant part of who I am.
Becoming a cyclist was not something I planned to become, and I certainly did not imagine it could ever be something that at least in part defines who I am. Yes, I recognise I am not a ‘pro’ in any way (riding, maintaining, communicating) and nor am I, in my opinion, obsessed (some may disagree). Cycling was a case where I made a departure and tried something new, where the only purpose was perhaps some FOMO (fear of missing out), spending more time with my friends and the recognition that I was in the worst shape of my life.
During the COVID inflicted summer of 2020 I listened to Chris Evans breakfast show a lot, and recall one particular morning where he was discussing that Entrepreneurs don’t necessarily wait until they know how they’re going to deliver their commitments before press the big green ‘go’ button. While, they know what they want to achieve, and they believe they can achieve it, they often don’t how it’s going to happen – and nor do they wait until they do. He referred to this ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’.
For the vast majority of us, our natural tendency is as perhaps we’ve been taught in so many lessons, be they archery or project management, ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’. Perhaps it’s counterintuitive, but our desire (comfort blanket?), to have a plan and understand what we’re doing and why, often costs us the opportunity of doing it at all. Cycling, I had no plan, and in fact other than enjoying it, I still don’t, and am adjusting my ‘aim’ as I go. Even now, in general, the best rides seem to be the ones when I have no real agenda or plan and just ride the road my heart and head argue are the best for that time and / or day.
The Gabbling MAMIL is absolutely no different…
Let’s see where my aim takes me this time!