by David Evans
A short catch-up: I wanted to cycle from Barcelona to Paris.
Dehydration is a hangover without the preceding fun, and I have been told that dying of dehydration would feel like the morning after the party at the end of the world. I thought about this as I cycled from Figueres in Catalunya past Perpignan in Southern France. I could feel salt collecting under my eyes. I forced myself to glug from my bottle every 15 minutes, reassuring myself that this would provide me with enough liquid to pedal on.
It wasn’t, by any measure. I found myself lying down on a beach near Canet-en-Roussillon clutching giant bottles of ice tea, water, Coca Cola, milk shake and, incongruously, gazpacho. My head slowly throbbed to its own rhythm. I contemplated my lot in life.
I had similar anti-epiphanies throughout my trip. Moments where my cognitive capacity was reduced to little more than an internal monologue of grunts. The moment of waking up on the third day to shirt-collar-stiff muscles. I had neglected my stretching and had to cycle through the consequences. The moment of emptying a pannier in the rain to find my compass. I hadn’t packed my bags properly, it felt like an act of self-sabotage. The moment where I bonked in the queue for the hostel. I swayed dizzily, the feeling of hunger overwhelmed by that of self-hatred. Idiot, idiot, idiot, twit, plonker, moron. How could I do this to myself? The anti-epiphany: How am I this stupid?
These moments were the crux of the matter: I taught myself some discipline. What happens if you don’t stretch, prepare, feed or clean properly? Well, lots of things, and few of them pleasant. Each time there was no option but to carry on. I was alone in a foreign country, without much to do except cycle and read and think, and I had a train to catch in Paris. Carry on.
Puncture in a race? Carry on. Lose the use of a gear or two? Carry on. Crash? Carry on. Good lesson to drill into yourself.
I didn’t get to Paris. I sat in a cafe in Montpellier filled with a sense of my own superiority. “Isn’t life wonderful?” I thought, “isn’t France great? Aren’t I a resilient chap?” I was insufferable even to myself. As I sipped my coffee, I noticed a man cycling past the front of the cafe. “Oh, what stylish chap is this? Riding a bike with such a strong resemblance to mine, how dapper. My pedal stroke is smoother, but…” It was my bike. End of trip.
Cyclocross on the cheap: Be disciplined, it saves a lot of time and bother. And a lot of money, which can then be used to replace stolen bikes.