From the birth of humans to 150 years ago, time for most people was astronomical. We set our daily limits and activities by sunrise or sunset. We determined what needed to be done by noon and ate at dusk. In the modern era, time is defined by clocks. Time is exact. Time is visible everywhere; on your wrist, on your phone, in your car, in your kids’ moans. It is a very stable reference frequency. Time is interlinked with the internet updating all connected devices with daylight saving and leap years. Only the microwave and my car clock remain time stupid…and my friend.
I love my friend. He is funny, he will stop if I puncture and the turning of his head isn’t connected to his bars, so he is a good guy to cycle with. So why when I hear (lets call him Colin) “Colin is joining us for a spin this morning” I receive the information like a skin cancer diagnosis. Colin is always late. Not out of malice, he is just late. He is a late person. When his wee head eventually joins us at 9.14 and some bullshit excuse about the traffic, or his kids, or the political stance of Poland’s apologetic right-wing, post 1945, it appears like the remains of a gerbil’s frightened head, poking out of the turd of the lion, that just ate him. The words he supplies as a reason for his lateness are mostly shit.
Group rides are just the most beautiful thing about cycling. When you get a group of people who have done 20 spins together, a smooth equilibrium is found. They climb well together and friendship develops to buy a bun or share a tube. The riders that find the pace too hard have got fitter or found another group. The fast have evaporated into their own angry haze at their power meters readout and their inability to win a real race and have went back to solo training or gone to zwift. The self edited remnants go for a spin together in the lanes and chat. Social joy in a sport. Rare joy, in an individual-centric activity where the participants have shunned team sports quicker than the look-away from a husband and wife arguing in a pub.
So what if he is 10 minutes late? It is not the end of the world. Relax. 10 minutes. I outwardly agree, but internally I seethe like the CIA agent in a shite movie that has been told by his prettier superior to Let him go..drop his gun…he is not worth it. It is not only ten minutes. You see it is MY 10 minutes. After the fifth ride to the meeting point, you know how long it takes. You realise the limits to allow yourself both in headwind and tailwinds. For me +/- 5 minutes. “Sorry lads- brutal headwind”- Colin. Between winter and summer the difference is getting ready between chucking on shorts and a jersey and horsing on overshoes and extra gilet is +/-4 minutes. “Sorry lads, I couldn’t find my other glove.”- Colin. Colin should leave the house at 8.33. Colin knows this like he knows he should have taxed his van or brought a spare tube or some money for coffee.
I learnt long ago never to meet Colin on his own for a spin, because without the extra pressure of the group ride, lets Colin relax and search for his Garmin/daughters homework or dog that got out…”the wee bollox ha ha”. I think the knowledge of Colin being late makes the minutes between 9.09 to 9.15 slow; slow like footsteps of a traffic cop who has just flashed his lights.
Then the text comes to my phone “leaving now” and you know his isn’t leaving now. You know he has one shoe on and the kettle is just boiling for a ‘quick cuppa’. The 10 minutes will be 19 more and this expectant delay makes me feel like a weirdo for being impatient. And I don’t like feeling like a weirdo.
Perhaps I’m getting old but it is my precious time. It is just disrespectful that the Colins think his time is more important than mine.
Cycling being a selfish sport, I do want to get home to resume parenthood and work duties. Saddle time is sanctified when life’s constraints place pressure from all sides. Colin isn’t a bad person. He is a good person who needs a kick up the hole. Talking to him or any Colin about being late is like booking tickets on an automated phone line, regardless if the volume is 1999 disco or political junta.
Time spent cycling, in good company is present in some of the best times I have lived; I think it is why I’m so protective of it. Headwinds are a challenge, broken chains are a hurdle to be fixed and pedal on. Colin is sand in my chamois.
Text your Colin ‘the’ ride is leaving 30 mins early tomorrow and then turn up at the normal time, so Colin can see what it is like to look at his watch like a bond villain with the missile count down timer past zero.
All the Colins could attend a meeting of LMA (Late Muppets Anonymous), but Colin would forget to book the hall, he would send the group text at 8.33pm for the 8.30 meeting, “everyone OK for tonight?” and then begin the search for the car keys with a quick cup of tea.
For group rides, 2 minutes past the meeting time should be celebrated by the sound of carbon soles and the springs of clipless pedals making quick love and riding off in unison. Colin knows which direction we are heading.