An anonymous female member gives her account of The Cycling Widow’s Revenge
I wonder what it is that drives otherwise bright, intelligent and reasonable men-of-a-certain-age to develop an obsession with dressing in what can only be described as obscene lycra garments and travelling around the countryside with groups of like-minded ‘sheep-scarers’?
Yes, you can probably tell that I am a cycling widow; the long-suffering partner of a middle-aged cycling enthusiast. It’s been an interesting journey, for me watching my man traverse the various levels of involvement in this ever-growing sport from hobby to enthusiast and into what can only be described as a deep obsession with the ‘beast with two wheels’ (and I can assure you, I’ve often called it much worse than that) and a love-affair with an Italian mistress – yes, that’s what he calls his bike! (and I can assure you, I’ve often called her worse than that too). I’ve come to realise that being over the hill, has a completely different meaning to a middle-aged cyclist.
What is the motivation? Is it the ‘inner boy’ that still wants to just muck about on his bike with his mates like he did when he was still at school, or is it a real-time, mid-life-crisis that our menfolk are compelled to go through – a bit like the menopause? Maybe it’s a ‘manopause’?
They mostly fit the stereotype: aged 38-55 with an appropriate level of disposable income (to deploy in the pursuit of continuous bike-envy and international cycling team allegiance by the way of replica kit) and a testosterone level to match. Maybe they consider themselves to be ‘knights on carbon-fibre’ riding their steeds to testosterone-fuelled, masculine glory to prove their continued ‘worth’ to their damsels in distress? That’s the distress of being abandoned due to the cycling obsession, you understand.
Whatever the reason, it’s a funny old thing; what on earth possesses men to squeeze themselves into lycra so tight, you can tell what religion they are, never mind which way they dress? I have found myself saying to my man “you can’t go out dressed like that, it’s obscene, you’ll be arrested” and am reminded of the conversations I had with my daughter when she went through her teenage ‘I’ll dress as provocatively as I like’ phase and I find myself wondering “why can’t that padded bit of the shorts extend to the front too?”. Personally, I wouldn’t even wear lycra that tight at my aerobics class. “What’s wrong with gardening, DIY and car-tinkering?” I ask my man, “like your Dad used to do”, but that hasn’t worked in keeping my man at home with me.
I also question my man’s rather dubious ritual of rubbing copious amounts of ‘bag-balm’ onto his ‘nethers’, using what I feel is the rather lame excuse of protecting the family jewels from the ‘friction’ caused by sitting on a razor blade for hours on end. Yeah, OK! Just how long should that application take? And talking of razors, would you please stop nicking mine to shave everything but your eyebrows. Do you seriously think this will make you faster?
And following the riding or racing of course, there are the hours and hours of obsessing over their own and everyone else’s stats on this Strava thing. The shouting and tantrums I have to endure when I hear that “the f***ing satellite data that can direct a man to the moon isn’t accurate enough to get the timing on a yard-long Strava segment right” is, I have to admit, rather satisfying and amuses me considerably – when my man is not in the room. But, this only serves to send the man back out again the next day to try to ‘take the segment back’ – whatever that means.
So let’s now consider the cost of all the kit you need for this obsession………… Oooooh, I hear exclamations of “Oh no” from the cycling fraternity and uncomfortable shuffling. Just how many bikes do you need? One for the summer, one for the winter, one for time-trialing and so on, and so on. Just how many obscene lycra outfits do you need, including shorts, tops, mankini all-in-one things etc.? And of course, all in ‘make-me-feel-sick’ ‘look at me’ day-glow colours. One for the winter, one for the summer, one for time-trialing, and so on, and so on. Then, there’s those cleaty, noisy shoe things, and shoe covers for when it rains! What’s all that about? Leg warmers, arm warmers, gloves, rain jackets, wind jackets, sunglasses with different lenses (god help me), heart rate monitors and Garmins, not to mention water bottles (containing anything from water to luminous, radioactive isotonic drinks) and a first-aid kit for the bike. What???? You even need two helmets – an ordinary one and a pointy ‘alien head’ shaped one? “You need not worry about a helmet my Darling; your brain has already left the building…..” And yes, when you are dead (possibly following one of your involuntary bike dismounts), I shall sell your bikes for what you told me they were worth!
OK, so you’ve got all the stuff you need, now it’s time to consider perhaps the most contentious part of this obsession – the time you give to it! Oooooh, I hear more exclamations of “Oh no” and uncomfortable shuffling once more. There are club rides on Saturdays, club rides on Sundays, chain-gang training on Mondays (which sounds incredibly suspect and rather rude to me), time-trialing on Wednesdays, social drinking on Thursdays, sportives all around the country in-between times, and then we have all the TV; Giros, Vuelta, Tours galore, days and days of the stuff – and to be honest it’s all the same – hundreds of lycra-clad, testosterone-fuelled and competitive men cycling around in groups, going up and down hills like The Grand Old Duke of York.
I’ve reluctantly realised I cannot fight this, so how can I make this work for me? Where are the positives in this? So, each time he goes out on his bike, I go shopping. When he arrives home after a ride, all sweaty, red-faced and exhausted, the shopping bags are there for all to see, deliberately of course. And it’s funny; he doesn’t question or object anymore. When I bought new shoes, he used to say “Well, that’s one in, there’s got to be one out.” Not any more, there isn’t – unless the bikes go one in, one out too. And the prosecco drinking with the girls? That’s OK too – and actually quite a lot of fun. And watching the cycling on the telly-box? Well, I’m quite enjoying looking at those rather fit and handsome men in very tight lycra now. All this fit-man watching by me is keeping my man fit and healthy – and on his toes too, if you know what I mean. It gives me something to tease him about and it makes him happy.
So here I am, making a call to all fellow cycling widows; let’s plot a shopping and prosecco drinking route on Garmin, taking in the best shops and prosecco-stops along the way. We can dress in some sexy gear and head out for a few hours of girl-time. We can then discuss and swap notes on our purchases for hours on end, then go out and do it again next week……… Oh hang on a minute, that’s what we girls do anyway!