Fit in my 40s: phew, a group bike ride that lets me catch up | Zoe Williams

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Zoe Williams

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With my brother-in-law’s group, nobody seemed to care how little I’d helped on the headwind

I’ve done enough group cycling in my life to say this with authority: it’s impossible for someone at my level, which is to say competent but not a grafter. Cycling clubs tend to be wonderfully inclusive and will meet you wherever you are (metaphorically speaking; literally, you have to meet them wherever they are, which is usually at the top of a really big hill). Whatever it takes, they’ll wait for you. Consequently, even on a leisure ride, a portion will be spent in profound embarrassment that some poor schmuck has to hang back for you. So you go a bit too fast, and the embarrassment commingles with cardiac discomfort until your face and every other part of you is bright red. The alternative is the complete beginner’s ride, with someone well-meaning explaining how to indicate.

I solved this by hitching my apple wagon to my brother-in-law’s mishmash of a group; so informal that they’re unbranded, so fit that they cycle in France (the hilly bits), but – here’s the kicker – so nature-loving, so whimsical, that they will stop for anything. They’ll stop if they see an unseasonably large toad. They’ll stop for a baby owl, or a field of poppies rolling across the eyeline like a red rash. I, too, would like to stop for these things, but it’s a chance for me to catch up, which I grab with both hands.

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