As the Summer begins to fade and my fitness continues to increase I find myself in a strange two wheeled no mans land.
Cycling has always been a social event for me, yet as my fondness for road biking grows my rides are generally solitary affairs.
The number of mountain bike miles added to my annual total since June can be counted in low double digits, whilst hundreds of miles have been covered exploring an expanding area centred around home. Local climbs and descents have been learnt and my Strava times on segments continue to improve, once happy with getting somewhere close to the top 10 or an occasional KOM off road, I have gathered multiple crowns in my Strava feed in recent weeks.
Something is missing, as I said, I'm a sociable creature, my mates are mtbers, they have seen me at my worst and best and carried me through in both cases. My road experiences have none of this camaraderie, and whilst I get an occasional enquiry I can see that the interest is surface deep, routes and distances mean nothing to them and I feel increasingly the same when descents, jumps and trails are discussed in return.
Requests for company on the road have met with refusals and excuses, the option left to me is to join a bike club, something I can't yet bring myself to do. I'm proud of my increased fitness and reduced waist, I take a passing interest in cadence and understand what my HRM is telling me during the stages of a ride but to me a club means stern chairmen and arm patches, rule books on club conduct and inevitable posturing and club politics.
On the rare occasions I have met riders on the road they are invariably going in the opposite direction and I'm too nervous to spin around and ask for company.. fearing that I'll be dropped unceremoniously on the next climb as my mouth writes cheques that my legs aren't able of cashing.
A mates brother road rides, I've seen him a couple of times and in each case we have spent 10 or so miles together discussing the world and his adventures as an ultra runner. Whilst Pat is happy to spin along at tick over however I find the pace too low and we soon part ways.
During the 77 mile Peak District Sportive however, my ride companions were a tall and powerful ex work colleague from Sheffield and a Cat 1 semi-pro bike company owning cycling monster. I was suffering a migraine and my pace was humiliatingly pedestrian in comparison to these gods of the road, they pulled me round though, dropped their pace and protected me from headwinds as we covered miles in the stunning scenery of the Peaks. I felt immense gratitude for their actions and this further fueled my love of the road, returning home though I was back to lonesome rides.
My confusion grows; too slow for Cat 1 Racers, too quick for an evening bimble, too nervous of speed and fitness and politics to join a club, too disinterested in throwing myself off gap jumps to ride off road.
For now, then, I'll continue to experience the solitude of the road.. if you see me out please say hello