Back in the year 1999, when everyone was panicking in case the computers crashed, civilisation ended and we’d all have to get used to wearing bear-skins again, I decided to do a charity cycle ride.
For the next 12 months I trained pretty much every day – I joined a gym (still miss going, but having a mortgage means I can’t afford it) and regularly cycled 22 miles each day, with a 30 mile ride on Saturdays and up to 60-70 miles on Sundays
For the Sunday rides I joined a local riding group, who shall remain un-named, but I always referred to as “The Nutters”
The Nutters were divided into three groups:
1) The Professionals – cycle racers who thought nothing of cycling 100-120 miles on a Sunday morning
2) The Veterans – former racers, still cycling 80-100 miles come rain or shine
3) What was laughingly referred to as “The Family Group”
The family group would cycle 40-60 miles each Sunday at a steady 16 mph – which may not sound much, but is pretty hard going. They would eventually arrive at some god-forsaken greasy-spoon diner that made you wonder why you had gone there, drink copious amounts of scummy tea and go back home.
My memory of that time is mainly of me pedalling like mad to keep up, silently yelling “Slow down you *********” in my head – but it was very good training and I have recently been thinking about re-joining as I did like the people.
Anyway, during all the time that I was training with them I had to explain to friends, family and anyone likely to sponsor me what I was doing – cycling 300 miles across a foreign country in 5 days.
Inevitably, as is a typical British reaction, no one was impressed:
“That’s nothing” some elderly relative would respond, ‘I used to cycle 500 miles and back every weekend to Wales, carrying your Auntie Bertha on the handlebars”
“Really?” I would respond – knowing full well that the closest they had got to a bicycle was in a museum
“Oh yes – and I’d have to bring back half a ton of coal too – on a penny farthing too!”
Rumour has it that the general response to Neil Armstrong landing on the moon from my family was "I could've done that distance in my Robin Reliant if they'd asked me" - although this cannot be substantiated.
I think this could be because my family originate from the knife and spoon-making capital of England, where life was tough and the people tougher. They probably rowed single-handedly around the world just to get to the shops and back.
Whatever the reason some people remain resolutely impossible to impress.