Tuesday 5 May 2009


©Maria Rendon

As I pored over a generic cycling magazine for possibly the 4th time for that copy, my wife asked with resignation whether I ever thought about anything else apart from cycling.

After a slightly forced answer confirming that indeed she and our mutual offspring were also in my thoughts on a regular basis (note no pecking order attached), I started to worry about what she was intimating and indeed the fact that she was onto something - that I had an obsession of grand proportions. Having not heard too many uses of the 'O' word in a positive connotation, it began to occur to me that this might not be a good thing either.

I have one of those odd detail orientated personalities that researches and orders to the nth degree, useless (though not to me) pieces of information whilst the chaos of life's practicalities builds up around me. Just ask my wife whose eye rolling will tell you all you need to know.

Cycling then, is fertile ground for someone like me with some kind of obsessive gene. Not that cycling has been my only obsession - Airfix aircraft, home chemistry sets, bassoon playing, orienteering, rock climbing, karst limestone geology, 90s house music and djing have all had their share of my considerable mental energies as I grew up.

Don't get me wrong - I coudn't tell you who won Paris Roubaix in 1967, who rode for which Belgian brewerouij team in the 70s, or even who has won the most Tour de France titles. No, wait I think I might know that one............ The devil for me is not in the detail, more living for the experience at all times.

I study maps of where I would like to ride, I study pictures of equipment I would like to ride with and in, I study maps of where races have been and where they are going to go. Witness fellow Flanders sportive rider and friend Gary as he was both frightened and reassured by my encyclopaedic knowledge of the Tour of Flanders sportive route, despite the fact that I had never until that point ridden in Flanders, let alone done that particuar route. Hours of map, route and DVD study had given me a frightening amount of information, some of which I simply couldn't let go to waste as we pedalled through the Flandrian landscape. He found it vaguely useful to know how far there was to go or whether there was a climb ahead. Me, I was living my dream..........

Historical detail then is unimportant to me - what I plan to do next is where it is at. The medium isn't important, merely what I have been into at the time - which model to build, which piece to play, the next record, climb and where to visit and so on. Not that even a tenth of my plans come off, but then I have always been that dreamer. Cycling though has been with me for 20 odd years. It has lasted the test of time and outlasted my waning interest in other things. Whilst the endorphin addiction thing cannot be discounted, it neatly fulfills a role as conduit for those dreams - there is always the hope of getting fitter, getting out at lunchtime during work when it is sunny, placing just a little higher in a cross race.

Loftier dreams too - of having time to ride Alpine cols, Flandrian bergs or watching great racing performances live, in real time. So that sad mid life crisis man reading and re-reading his tattered copy of Cycling Weekly from 3 years ago isn't looking inward, memorising the placings from a race he never saw - he's looking outward, wondering what he can do and where, at some unspecified time in the future. Give him a wave when you see him out there, living his obsession.

1 comment:

Dave Haygarth said...

I read earlier today on Trio's blog that 'Obsessed is the label given by lazy people to the dedicated'. I'm not sure that's entirely true - there is such a thing as obsession, because it blurs your focus a bit. I have an unhealthy obsession with the Three Peaks - in that it makes me so nervous about the race that it is physically counter-productive. I like focus and I like passion, but I fight against obsession.