When Andy and I first started cycling back in 2006, we used to get up really early and meet along the B269 in the dark. In retrospect, getting up that early – and by early I mean we met at 7am, which was dark in the winter months – wasn't a bad thing as it meant we got back early too. But these were the days when we cycled fairly seriously. We hadn't coined the phrase NoVisibleLycra, we didn't have a blog and, well, we just got up, cycled off to Westerham, stopped for a cream bun and a bottle of mineral water and then, with little conversation, we cycled back, said our goodbyes and then repeated the process.
Gradually, however, we got more chatty, we started talking about stuff like politics and cars and Top Gear, we cracked a few jokes, talked about bikes and then, after a while, realised that having a cream bun kind of cancelled out the point of cycling: exercise. Then I thought about bringing along a flask of tea, Andy started with the cereal bars and suddenly, who needed a convenience store? Not us! We could park up anyway and sip our tea and munch on those cereal bars.
My memory's a little hazy about those early days with the flask. Did we use the bench next door to the convenience store, did we just stand around? I can't remember. When we went to Botley Hill, long before wising up to the Tatsfield Bus Stop where, hey, we could shelter from the storm, we'd just stand around under trees, even in the winter, and invariably got soaked as we drank our tea. Of course we did wise up and soon Tatsfield Bus Stop really was a port in a storm. But there were plenty of things we hadn't wised up to.
Whenever we had a puncture, for example, rather than fix it on the roadside using some kind of repair kit, we simply resigned ourselves to walking home, listening en route to the increasingly irritating sound of the tyre squeaking. Sometimes we just walked a cool three of four miles from, say Westerham to Oxted. Other times the walk was much longer: all the way home from Botley, for example, seven miles, it took hours. And then one or the other of us wised up: how about we fix our punctures on the roadside? Why don't we bring some kind of kit with us and a pump and save a bit of time? And it did save time even if sometimes it was so cold it made Andy lose his temper!
And yes, we're not called NoVisibleLycra for nothing. We just don't wear the stuff, we don't want to look like fucking Power Rangers. We ride chunky Konas and, to be frank, we wear normal clothes, not 'cycling gear'. Well, not for much longer. Now don't get me wrong; we're not planning on riding racers and buying Lycra, oh no, but we are kind of sick of going home like a couple of over-sized sponges, full of rain water and speckled with mud. And as for arse, well, it gets a proper soaking because I don't have a rear mudguard. Okay, I'm still mulling over the idea of ruining my bike's original lines with an ugly black plastic mudguard, so the wet arse might stay – or will it? Not if I buy some decent cycling trousers that are water repellent! And perhaps a matching top! Andy feels the same way.
So, we made an important decision today: to buy water resistant cycling clothing, but NOT, I repeat NOT Lycra, not body hugging. Mind you, a pair of Speedos might be worth considering. I mean summer's coming...