|Now that's what I call a different angle on an old bus stop!|
Time was short so we decided to go to the bus stop instead, which proved a good move. We sat there, drinking tea, flicking teabags on to the grass and chatting about my children's novel, that I've just published on Kindle - here's hoping it'll make some money, but who am I kidding? It was always just something for my daughter, although my pal Geoff and I got carried away, produced an illustrative front cover, edited it, threw in an additional chapter and suddenly we're all expecting a Pulitzer prize.
Then, having sipped our teas, an old man arrived on a Dawes Galaxy, a brand new one he had bought on the internet for £800. A smart bike. A tourer. Twenty seven gears, mudguards, the works. Very sensible. He used to be a runner but his legs gave out and now he's back cycling again - he used to do it a while back with his nephew.
I'm guessing this guy is in his mid-to-late seventies - he has a brother who is 80 and lives in Cornwall and a running pal who is 81 and still visits the gym. He's just given up running and the two of them enjoy a long distance walk, like a nine-mile walk. What are they, supermen? Probably. It says a lot for cycling and general fitness.
We chewed the fat with the old guy for some time and I suddenly realised how anoraky we were all sounding, discussing tyres and gears and stuff. The old guy, we never got his name, commented that we must find it tough riding our bikes on the road. The tyres are huge and the bikes are designed for off-road riding. Yes, we said, we know. We like riding our Konas on the road and have no plans to change tack, although I must admit that the Dawes Galaxy did look very sensible and mildly desirable - not that I desire the sensible. The Galaxy had mudguards for a start, meaning no chance of a wet arse - unlike me on my Kona. But no, I'm sticking right where I am, cold arse be blowed! In fact, if anybody would care to blow my cold arse dry - using a hairdryer, perhaps, well, who needs mudguards?
We suggested to the man that he might like to join us and he said yes. We meet on the Green at 0730hrs normally, most weekends, we said, and we suspect that one day he'll be there, waiting, on his Dawes Galaxy. If he is there one day, it'll be the first time a stranger has joined us on a ride.
He set off first, having told us where he was going: back along the 269 to Beech Farm Lane then round the lanes to Chelsham Church and back on to the Limpsfield Road at Warlingham Sainsbury's.
A few minutes later, Andy and I set off and said our customary goodbyes half way along the 269. I carried on towards Sanderstead and there I noticed a presence behind me, a shadow. A fellow cyclist! Well, it turned out to be the old guy. He'd caught me up, exchanged pleasantries and then he was off. There was no way I could catch him, no way at all, which kind of annoyed me. Why? Because I'm trying to work out whether it's me or the bike I ride or what? It seems that everybody is faster than me, they power past me and soon are gone and I can't figure it out. Okay, the old guy has a lighter and probably faster bike and he seems to be higher in the saddle, bearing down upon the handle bars, whereas I ride what amounts to a tractor, it's lower geared and very heavy. That might be it. Or, of course, it could be that I'm just terribly unfit, despite going out every weekend for the past six years on regular cycle rides ranging from 14 to 35 miles. Either way, it's a little annoying.