Patience is a Virtue. Well, Sometimes

I think I may have mentioned this before, but some non-cyclist deemed that it would be an excellent idea to site the nearest doctor’s surgery in a village that’s perched up on the top of a steep hill. This means that I can only really visit the doctor’s when I’m in peak physical condition – which I suppose does save the NHS some money – and I have to make sure I arrive for my appointments about 10 minutes early, to allow my heart rate and blood pressure to get back down into the normal range.

There are three roads into the village, and all of them are bastards, but the most direct route is the bastardest of all, and that was the one I was plugging my way up this morning. It’s the sort of hill that starts steep and then goes round a corner and kicks up a notch more, just to break your will. It has not one but two false summits, and a number of identical looking houses along its length so you keep thinking you’re nearer the top than you are. The only way to cycle up it is to suffer away at your own pace, while doing your best impression of Thomas Voeckler valiantly defending the yellow jersey on the first real day in the mountains in the Tour de France and pulling a variety of theatrical grimaces (can anyone explain why gritting your teeth and gurning helps you cycle up a hill? Because strangely enough it does). And the absolute last thing you need when you’re doing this is someone driving along patiently behind you in their car.*

I know what you’re thinking. Bloody cyclists are never satisfied. If you squeeze past them they moan about a close pass, and if you patiently hang back waiting for the road to widen then they complain about that too. And it’s true that I’d rather not be swept off the road by some oblivious 4×4 in a hurry. But there’s a world of difference between sweeping past a cyclist regardless of pot holes and blind bends and calmly overtaking them on some straight bit of the road where there’s room to do so without leaving the imprint of your wing mirror in their backside.

Unfortunately, this driver seemed unused to our narrow roads and didn’t pass despite several pointed looks over my shoulder. And there was no way I was stopping on that hill to let them past, so we had to carry on together, me feeling obliged to at least look as if I was making an effort to go at something above walking pace. By the time they’d finally summoned up the nerve to overtake (on a nice narrow bendy bit of the road, naturally) my legs were ready to explode. I should probably apologise now to the poor people in the health centre who got to sit next to me as I cooled down from the sweaty red-faced mess I was when I arrived, not to mention the doctor… it’s hard to demonstrate the joys of cycling as a regular mode of transport when you’ve just had to wring the perspiration out of your cap.

That said, anyone looking for the real joys of cycling should have seen me on the way home. Barely turned a pedal, just glided the whole way down. Magic.

* I mean, unless it contains the team manager and spare bikes and a mechanic and you actually are Thomas Voeckler in which case it would be quite handy

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4 Responses to Patience is a Virtue. Well, Sometimes

  1. […] Brit researcher says bike helmets aren’t a no-brainer after all. Sometimes patient drivers are as annoying as the other kind; I often try to wave drivers around to get ‘em off my ass. Seven reasons to visit the […]

  2. I think many drivers don’t like overtaking on a straight bit of road, because they might spot a car coming the other way mid-overtake.

    Instead they prefer to wait until they can’t see the road ahead, because of a corner or the brow of a hill, and that’s when they decide to go for it. That way there’s no chance they’ll be scared by the sight of a car coming the other way.

    I may be wrong, but I can’t think of any other reason why someone who won’t overtake on a clear straight road will choose to on a corner. It happens too often to be coincidence…

  3. Bob says:

    This, in a nutshell nicely summarizes the difference between riding a bike in say, The Netherlands (nirvana, I SO miss that.) and well, pretty much anywhere else. One can go at ones own pace in the Netherlands, as one is not in any way threatened by anything wider than Oma on her Omafiets.
    Anywhere else, it seems like it’s always a race to try and keep ahead of the cars, or have them perilously close to ones arse.
    Just about makes a feller want to spit.

  4. disgruntled says:

    Anthony, I’ve often thought that about some drivers…
    Bob – I should say that on the whole the roads around here are quiet enough that the main hazard are the sheep…

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