Smiles, needles and going round in circles

The other day I saw something almost as rare as a presidential candidate under 70. I came across a rider who doesn’t use Strava or Zwift. I know what you are thinking. Can’t be real. But honestly it was - they rode their bike for the love of it without the use of an app. They didn’t even have a power meter or know their FTP.

Now I realise this is only my second blog (catch up with part one here) so in the interests of not alienating readers this early - I think Zwift and Strava are a force for good. They are both incredible platforms that have given people many hours of inspiration and fun. But it does come with a risk - data becomes a form of currency by which we measure the sport we love - me included. I mean parkrun, the ultimate example of sporting fun and mass participation, is now publishing times as people want to see their data (and other people’s). So finding someone who reminds me of just the fun of getting on a bike and turning the pedals is no bad thing.

And where did I find that gentleman? At the pub. Having a few beers after a ride and before the rugby. Enter the Woodhouse Wheelers - a bunch of mates who just ride for the fun of it, then finish up with beers and a TV sporting event. Nige, Alex, Phil, Jeff and the gang are the epitome of just enjoying cycling and there is no doubt their encouragement gets me out more than I would normally. I mean, there are only so many times you can go around a velodrome on your own doing laps. It is also inspiring me to target the cyclocross season.

The conversation on the bike about power, FTPs, carbon lay-ups and so on often overshadows the joy of having a laugh and we should not lose sight of that fact. I know I do - particularly when training for a sportive or an event. Sure, use Zwift and Strava, have FTPs and oxygen sats at your fingertips, max heart rates and power metrics. 

But remember at the centre of it all is riding along on two wheels. Because then, when the FTP starts to fade or you have that awful day on a bike, you can look beyond that and still say you went out - you made that effort and hopefully your body and mind will thank you. Remember professional riders’ FTPs are just that - professional riders’ statistics and they are measured for a reason. Sometimes we can get lost in that.

And now for the serious bit. Well serious-ish. Another thing my mates at the pub accidently encouraged me to do was go to the doctors a couple of weeks ago. Along with most of my friends, I am ‘of a certain age’. With a few cycling-induced niggles playing on my mind for far too long, I followed others in finally going to see my doctor to tackle the issue. I won’t pretend I wasn’t more than a little hesitant.  

Now here’s the thing about TV adverts; they remind you to do or buy stuff. In my case, that bloody bowel cancer advert just sat on my mind playing on repeat. So, I took a deep big boy breath, genuinely swallowed the anxiety and nerves then said those special words: “Doctor, let’s check my prostate and bowel”. I was reassured when the doctor said her fingers were too short for a prostate check but it turns out modern science has a better way of doing tests these days anyway. 

So after a couple of blood tests and samples I have peace of mind - everything seemingly ok. Well not quite everything; my high cholesterol needs some attention and that is now my focus, alongside getting fit for cyclocross. Goodbye Easter eggs and hot cross buns - you will be missed. 

And now I have a medical reason to press on, lose weight and get fit. I would like to think that I was already a few weeks into changing my diet but I have definitely felt that added incentive. I mean I might have cut myself some slack on the Easter chocolate given I am now back on a bike, but blood tests say no. The scales won’t lie on the weekly weigh in either - so Easter will have to wait until after the Herne Hill Cyclocross Series in the Summer. 

It is amazing how these little niggles can fester and bring you down but when tackled it is like a weight has been lifted. And I need all the help I can get to do that before the summer.

So, if you are a male of a certain age and one, like me, who historically needs to be dragged to the doctor for the many sporting (and non-sporting) niggles that come with age, call your GP and book in that body service. We wouldn’t think twice about doing it for our bikes, so why not do it for the thing that actually pushes the pedals. It will be worth it because it will allow you to enjoy your cycling a little more safe in the knowledge you are free of the ‘what ifs’.

And whether you are of a certain demographic, a Zwifty or a Strava-ette - just don’t forget we all love riding because… well, it’s riding. Don’t let the data get in the way and when you have those bad days, know it won’t be like that the next time you’re out. 

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