Simon Mills was supposed to ride with us to Edinburgh but found himself in a scheduling conflict, thanks to a new assignment. He recently published his rules, so I thought that I might articulate mine albeit there are some similar ones and they are nowhere as comprehensive as his.
- Know the obvious: you do not own the road. You are merely sharing the road with other cyclists, pedestrians and motorists. Don’t be a muppet; there are more than enough of them out there already.
- Leave your iPod at home. Take in your environment with all your senses. Any given route never sounds the same. The iPod playlist will still be there when you stop riding. If you want to exercise whilst listening to your iPod, then go to the gym. If you need to shake off a bad day, then just go faster. The first signs of anything going a bit wrong with your bike will be the sound; hear it before the problem makes itself known in other ways. It is also useful to be able to hear a motorist approaching from the rear.
- Try to keep your mouth shut when riding. I once yawned as I passed under a tree and my mouth captured what must have been an entire family of little bugs. They can be difficult to spit out or swallow as they tend to get lodged in corners of the mouth that you never knew existed. The only exception to this rule is when you are going down a descent on a lovely route that reaffirms life in all its glory, and you just cannot help laughing out loud like the chap above, captured by Bernard Touillon.
- Be courteous but concentrate on the road. Acknowledge with a subtle nod or greet other cyclists who are travelling in the opposite direction, but do not stare at them even when they are wearing shockingly garish kit. I know that it is tempting, but it can be very dangerous: I almost had a spill once because I did not see a pothole in time to avoid it completely. Furthermore, your gape may send the wrong message unless, of course, that is in fact your message, in which case, bon chance and take care doing a U-turn.
- If you must stare, then stop first. If you find a stunning view, someone riding an immaculately restored Holdsworth, or you simply want to take in and contemplate the sartorial semiotics of passing cyclists, then stop. I don’t care how good your peripheral vision is; if something captures your imagination, then you will not see anything else. It is for your own good not to overestimate your multi-tasking abilities. However, if you insist, then get behind the object of your gaze and get in its slipstream.