I found the picture when I was searching for some stuff about my liver transplant in 1993 but I posted it because it brought back some great memories of riding in what we subsequently agreed were simpler times. We talked about it when Baz poled up at my house for a cup of tea and a bacon butty on his full suspension Commencal – a far cry from the second hand Alpinestars you can see him on in the picture. The bikes were certainly simpler with rigid forks and cantilever brakes with my nod to safety and comfort at that time being fingerless weight training gloves.
I wrote about these seemingly simpler and more carefree times (along with many other things) in ReCycled should you wish to come with me on the journey although the main subject of that book was road cycling following my transplant. Unearthing the pictures made me think a little more about why I ride bikes. Some 18 years after that picture was taken, I'm now a Level 3 Road and Time Trial coach, a road racer (of sorts) a time triallist (of even strangers sorts) and I'm about to launch into riding the track later this season. 46 isn’t too old to take on a new cycling challenge is it? :) I’ve won British, European and World titles in transplant cycling but frankly, it’s all a bit bloody serious sometimes. It struck me recently when on a routine visit to the Queen Elizabeth hospital to look at my blood levels for signs of rejection following a change in immunosuppressant drugs, that I was more concerned about my haemoglobin and haematocrit levels than anything else. See, it’s all about oxygen uptake when racing the bike isn't it? Don’t get me wrong, I love the competition and the training – I'm constantly strapped to a heart rate monitor and worrying about mine or somebody else’s cadence, pacing or power output but there is more to riding a bike than that. There is, dare I say it, fun and possibly even, enjoyment?
Sure, it’s a great outlet for one’s competitive angst but sometimes a ‘trees and flowers’ ride is needed to ground you: to remind you about why you do it in the first place. Because the weather has been so lousy, the last few weeks have been all about turbo and roller training sessions in the garage – heart rate monitor on, iPod in, water to hand, freezing cold to start with, sweating like Lance in front of the FBI the next. Not that much fun really.
The wild and reckless me thought ‘sod this’, I’ll dust off the mountain bike and get out for an hour in the snow. So, I dislodged the nesting wildlife from the Orange and got out for a ride on a bike designed to have fun on rather than race. 5 minutes later I was in the lanes looking for patches of snow and ice to ride through, bouncing on the suspension forks and murmuring ‘weeeee…’ (under my breath of course) as I went down hills.
It’s something I need to do more often. It was fun. In fact, it was so much fun that I almost forgot to switch my heart rate monitor off and log the data when I got home. New habits die hard.
See you out there. Rich ...
I’m fund raising for the GB Transplant Cycling team going to the World Transplant Games in South Africa in 2013. Please support us if you can.