Hero

I don’t hold with heroes.
Too many times
I’ve seen my dreams defiled
And danced into the dust
By careless feet of clay;
Watched conquered summits crumble
Immortal deeds effaced
Glimpsed wicked eyes and sneering mouths
Behind the smiling masks
And spied the crack that runs right through
The highest pedestal.

But if I were to pick
A model for myself
It’s the guy who’s always out there
Grinding down the miles
And the gnawing teeth of Time
Riding fearlessly
(And gearlessly)
Into his eighth decade:
A life’s work scored deep in his limbs
A faithful record of each season
Etched sharply in his face.

Resisting all beguilement,
Easy wins and level roads;
Undaunted by the weather
Wearing wisdom lightly
Committed to the labour
Unknown, unsung and unremarked.
A quiet courage, steel-cored
That bends but never breaks.
And when the rest have quit the field
Looks round and smiles, renews his grip
And onward.

 
 

Inspired by a fellow I met on the road yesterday. He was riding a fixie – a bike with just one gear and no freewheel mechanism, which means you have to keep pedalling the whole time, even going downhill – and I had a job keeping up with him. Apparently, he puts in over 2,500 miles a year on it, plus another 5,000 on his geared machines. And he’s 76. I want to be him one day (but not quite yet!) N.

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3 thoughts on “Hero

  1. I’ve just found your cycling blog. Very enjoyable.
    This sounds like an encounter Wordsworth might have written up had he been a cyclist.
    I’m about 20 years nearer this chap’s age than you are: he’s a hero for me too. 56″ fixed has been my go to ride since retirement, but can’t match his mileage. I’ve had a couple of very down years off the bike with arthritis and knee replacement, but recently figured that since the knees ache as much sitting on the sofa as when pedalling I might as well pedal while I can. It’s good to be back on the bike.
    Geoff in N Kent.

    • Dear Geoff
      Thank you so much for your kind words; glad you like it. At the risk of tooting my own horn, I’ve also written a book, ‘Mindful Thoughts for Cyclists’, which was published earlier this year. I’m afraid that what’s supposed to be a cycling blog gets increasingly sidetracked by other topics and events these days: the times we live in, I suppose.
      Sounds as though you and I have a fair bit in common, actually, apart from geography (I’m in East Sussex). I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my knee eight years ago, when I was only 40: the NHS isn’t interested in replacing it just yet and, just like you, I’ve concluded that it’s going to hurt whatever I do, so I might as well keep riding. I’ve given up the old regime of 100 and 200km audaxes, sportives, bits of time-trialling and what-have-you, but I’ve kept up my five-to-six-days-a-week habit! For most of the time since the diagnosis, I’ve suffered discomfort rather than pain, but this summer things really deteriorated, so in the name of future-proofing, I’ve sold my three-speed Pashley Guv’nor and I’m now in the process of buying an e-bike…anyway, delighted to hear you’re back on the road, and enjoying your riding again. Whereabouts in N Kent are you? My dad is a Maidstone boy, Grandad ran a company in Rochester, and I’ve ridden various audax events and reliability trials from places like Otford, so I know it reasonably well. I have vivid (if not fond) memories of riding my only 400k audax through that part of the world, and somehow ending up on the sea wall at Reculver at 2.00am. Happy days.
      Best wishes
      Nick

  2. I’m in Dartford, but whenever I can I ride the quieter roads around Cobham, Higham and the Hoo Peninsular where I was living when I was a very active club cyclist (Gravesend CC) back in the late 70’s and 80’s. The Darent Valley seems to have got a bit hilly these days!

    A couple of hours 2 or 3 times a week is plenty long enough at present. It was very tough for a while when I really thought my riding days were done so now every ride is a treasure. I bought your book and your approach struck a real chord with me. I hope your knees don’t spoil things too much for you – I know everyone is different, but I was assured that cycling wouldn’t worsen my condition.

    I’ll be interested to read what you think about e-bikes. I don’t think I need one yet, but shan’t hesitate if the time comes.

    All best
    Geoff

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