I’m on the road between Usk and Chepstow and I think I might be going blind. I can see the thin strip of a tyre in front of me, Gavin’s tyre, some flickering figure on my wattage meter that makes me wonder if I’m hallucinating. The thing is to keep driving, be conscious of the effort, spin the pedals, don’t push and grind. Ignore heart, lungs and legs, stay with the pace, despite everything. This finds the real you, the one that says stop or the one that tries harder. If you’re suffering, hopefully he’s suffering too!
Of course there’s absolutely nothing unique about this for cyclists, everybody knows that this is the default mentality of the cyclist. Even the ‘easy’ rides surrender to the inevitable effort.
What I’m talking about, although he doesn’t know it, is my cycling spouse. The one person that makes the ride for you, who persuades you to pedal harder, travel further, believe in yourself, and aspire to more. This is not a matter of ego, but a matter of fact. Not a ride to beat you or to scalp you, a shared ride to push you both further.
This is a rare find. In 25 years of riding this is the exception, not the rule.
Back in the ‘80’s I started cycling with my younger brother. As we grew up and our ways parted we would still meet up and hammer. Coming home for holidays would always find one of us with the upper hand, just slightly, but within in a week we were neck and neck, pushing on.
As is the way of things, through the years I have had the good fortune of many hard riding companions. Friendships forged through adversity, both on and off the bike. As we know the bond on the bike forms the bond off the bike.
So let me tell you, my bike wife is Gavin. Although we have been accused of looking like a gay couple, it’s not the case. The truth is that built on a long lived foundation and joint appreciation of all things of life and cycling we have a unique riding bond. Where effort, and not ego, is the motif, a shared effort to a common goal and of effort of which I am proud, challenged and matched in alternating circumstance.
In October 2012 I had a unique riding experience, something outside of the beautiful miles and the hurting on the hills, the rain, wind and sunshine. Out in the country lanes South of Bristol I had what a more superstitious man might call a premonition. I didn’t recognise it as such, just a cold fear, a real fear that there was going to be a serious accident. Never have I felt this before, never have I turned round on a ride for fear, never has the key in the lock been such a palpable relief.
Gavin had his spine broken that afternoon. In a country lane 120 miles from Bristol the back door of a heavy truck swung open, and while he ducked his head under it, the swinging door split his scapula, broke his ribs and smashed his vertebrae.
We’re months down the road now and the air ambulance crew, the amazing staff at the Intensive Care Unit at St. Marys Hospital in Paddington, and the rehab centre at the Wellington Hospital in St. Johns Wood have put Gavin on the right track. He managed 9 watts on the bike a couple of months ago – he’s up to 40 now, if I were to take the piss I’d say not far off his previous standard, but I wouldn’t. The road to recovery is not a fast road, but it’s a road I know that he will take, I hope I can accompany him. Here’s to many more rides.