The road less travelled

2004-07-28 11:29
I fall into a group of committed road cyclists who are generally quite obsessive. I get at least seven hours sleep, pump my tyres to the right pressure, reset my accurately-calibrated computer and heart rate monitor and only then set off on my ride. It's normally a well-planned ride on familiar roads over known distances and is punctuated by traffic lights, the timing of which I can predict almost to the second.

The other day I arranged to ride on a Sunday morning with a photographer friend who'd had a long break from cycling and, after a couple of months, was just getting back to a reasonable level of fitness. He'd done a series of rides that week which had been in groups and quite hard. As we met he said he was keen to go a bit shorter and easier. I agreed, but not with enthusiasm. My Sunday rides are usually long or hard, or long and hard, and being fit, I'd been looking forward to more of the same.

Wayne has lived in Joburg all his life and I've lived there for just three years - all my rides having been on familiar routes that are used by the local cycling clubs. He suggested we ride into the city centre 'for something different'. Again, I hesitantly agreed.

We rode slowly enough to talk and breathe and not have to choose the more necessary of the two. We rode on tree-lined suburban back roads, parallel to the main roads that I was used to - the ones with the traffic lights. We rode into the heart of the city itself which, being early on a Sunday, was almost car-free. Wayne pointed out old, famous buildings and statues, we stopped to get a good look at the large new suspension bridge under construction and decided that it was good to see our city being improved.

I punctured outside a majestic old house that Wayne had photographed once before. We took our time to replace and inflate the tube before taking off up a series of steep and unpredictable climbs which forced us to search like novices for more comfortable cadences and appreciate the bright bloke who invented the derailleur.

More leafy suburbs, a slow freewheel down a street as we discussed the unique antique furniture stores that lined it, then up another stiff climb. We swooped into a thrilling descent and to an eventual stop at the only coffee shop open before 8:30 in a suburb I'd only ever heard about. Nearly an hour later we began the return journey, this time along different back roads.

Birds chirping and the smell of freshly mowed lawn stimulated our senses as we tried to solve some of the world's problems. Our freewheel ratchets broke the silence in quiet suburbs where residents were walking dogs or sipping hot beverages on their verandas, partially hidden behind the Sunday papers.

Suddenly, sadly it was over. A ride I had initially dreaded turned into one of my best. It didn't matter how far we rode, how long we took or which route we went. What mattered was that for once I noticed more than my heart rate, my cadence, and my trip meter. I started the ride with a grimace and finished it with a grin.

On my menu
I occasionally substitute a lunch meal with a meal replacement drink. I don't do it every day though, usually just days I don't train so that I can limit my kilojoules intake without sacrificing the right amounts of fats, proteins and carbs. It must, however, be a quality, sport-specific brand.

On my bedside table
A copy of the book French Revolutions, by Tim Moore (R125, Exclusive Books). It is humorous journalism of the highest standard, inspired by Moore's solo cycle on the 2000 Tour de France route, six weeks before the real race began.

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