Flat Evens

Mother Nature spoke to me today. She said, very politely, ‘Mr MAMIL, the clocks have gone back, it’s 15 celsius and sunny, get on your bike and enjoy it’. What she didn’t tell me was that she had a cruel plan to rip out my heart, suck out every ounce of energy that I had, and totally dissolve my sense of humour with another bloody headwind. A whole hour on the drops, plugging away at 24kmh on the flat, having to pedal down hill… ouchy!

The wind seems to have been relentless recently, and I am really quite tired of it now and I thought that Mother Nature might just cut me some slack today – but no, it was worse than forecast, and I gave many audible retorts to make sure she understood my displeasure. Therefore, you would think that I now sit here grumpy, tired and aching while waiting for the oven to warm up so I can put my fish pie in. And you’d be 66% correct… but I am not grumpy. In fact, I’m far from it. The weather is one of those factors that as cyclists we have to learn to live with, and these are the rides that can at times test your resolve, but are hugely rewarding at the same time. Suffering from a complete loss of sense of humour at half way, with a sore back and neck from spending so long pushing hard, head down on the drops, it may have been appropriate to take the easy route back in for an early dinner. Indeed, perhaps conveniently there was an easy, direct route back.

But here’s the thing… the very thing that’s been kicking you in the face for the last hour will then caress you gently, and allow you to recover to the point that 10 kilometres later you wonder what all the fuss was about. Don’t get me wrong, I doubt that many reach their destination and are so masochistic that they ride straight past their front door to do an unplanned second lap, and I certainly didn’t. My choice to make – the straight flat’ish run in or turn right for one last hill and a few extra kilometres… I turned right, and made the right decision.

Now, there was a time, when I rode like a pro. Allow me to qualify… technically, what I should say was I took part in an event called ‘Ride Like a Pro’, though there was nothing particularly pro about it… other than we rode with a Team Sky team car passing the small pelotons that the risk assessments had permitted, out on the open road. I suppose it was a nice idea, where as a Jaguar promotion you met at your local dealership and then set off on the risk assessed road ride. I’m still not entirely sure what the end result was supposed to be. I really doubt anyone rushed out to buy a Jaguar as a result of the event (though I do recall one person being drawn at random from the different events they’d run around the country to drive a Jaguar around a race track…) and while we had some ‘experienced chaperones’ on the ride, I think mostly there was disappointment that no ‘stars’ were present. A very strange event, which for us meant a mostly forgettable route around the fens.

‘What’s your point, caller?’

The Fens, plus wind… oh my! Give me 2 celsius and Fog on the Tourmalet ahead of the Fens in a 30kmh wind, any day.

While riding like a pro, across the Fens, the wind decided to join in. Plodding along on the front, heads down, myself and a mate on the front… a chaperone rocked up alongside, and said ‘lads, flat evens… let the others catch up’, and then he disappeared. We looked at our computers and the stunning speed we already weren’t doing, and collectively had no idea what he meant. So we carried on. Shortly, ‘lads Flat Evens… they’re not getting back on’. At this point, the right answer was – ask what Flat Evens meant. However, being ‘inexperienced nobodies’ talking to an ‘experienced chaperone’ we felt massively embarrassed by our lack of understanding. We just slowed down, they caught up, and all was well again. ‘Ride Like a Pro’ ended, and the most Pro thing I’d done was put a free gel in my pocket.

However, in the rides that followed, over many half-ride cups of coffee, we continued to debate and laugh at whatever ‘Flat Evens’ were. We asked everyone we could think of, and nobody we asked knew. I even asked a very experienced female pro (world champion!), and she’d never heard of it either. So, if you know what Flat Even’s are… please do drop me a line!

Where I grew up is pancake flat, and I remember as a kid hating riding my Peugeot Etoile when it was windy, it ruined the whole experience. Particularly as a kid with little mass and little power, it’s really soul destroying – even dangerous. However even as a MAMIL, a Fen headwind is crucifying, and a crosswind often just dangerous. The tailwind (regardless of Fens or not) is the reward. We all love them, and if you’ve done your time paying with the headwind first, you certainly deserve the reward. If you take the tailwind on the way out, save something for the journey home!

While, if you live and ride on the flats of Wherevershire, and have to put up with the wind day in and day out, you will be forgiven if you are a fair weather rider, or just frankly not bothering to ride at all. If you do ride out there, you are made of strong stuff! Chapeau!

If I lived in the Fens my next bike would be a Yamaha. Perhaps I could ride Flat Evens in a headwind on that!

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