Dr Hutch: Seven great acts of cycling stupidity
A collection of wince-inducing, cringe-worthy moments endured by cyclists
Sink, not swim
A tale reaches us from a training camp in Spain. A rider, having completed the last of his long rides, and feeling that he’d put in a really good week’s work, felt it would be a suitably flamboyant sign-off to cycle straight into the swimming pool of his hotel in front of his mates. He did so.
Unfortunately, he rode into the shallow end, so there was a significant impact with the bottom of the pool, which wrote off his frame.
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Secondly, it turned out his GPS wasn’t quite waterproof enough.
Thirdly, nor was his phone.
Fourthly, the hotel management insisted on closing the pool so it could be drained and cleaned, meaning that everyone else staying there was denied a soothing swim, and told that it was all his fault.
An email arrives: Dear Doc, I wanted to tell you about my team-mate. He read one of your books, which mentioned beetroot juice as a possible go-faster supplement that had shown some interesting results in studies. So the night before a race he juiced up some beetroot and drank it.
The following morning, at the race, he went for a last-minute pee. The extraordinary colour of his urine freaked him out. He abandoned his racing plans, and insisted I also abandon mine and drive him to hospital. After about two hours in A&E, someone asked him if he’d recently consumed any beetroot.
He ruined his and my race, and, what’s more, in the book it even mentioned scarlet pee as a side effect.
One bike shop’s loss is another’s gain…
A tale from a bike shop mechanic. He had a customer who brought his bike in to be serviced every six months, despite the fact that it was very lightly used. In fact, it often seemed not to have been ridden at all since the last service.
The last time the customer phoned to reserve a slot, the mechanic said, “Why don’t you just send me the £30. The bike will be fine.”
There was a strange silence.
“Or, if you like,” he continued, “pop the bike on the phone, and I’ll do it from here.”
He never saw the man, the bike, or the man’s credit card again, and the easiest money he could earn all year started going to the bike shop across town.
At the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014, I was walking through the Athlete’s Village one evening with one of the Games volunteers. It was the day before the road races. Coming the other way, I saw Mark Cavendish.
We stopped for a few minutes — I wanted to know if he was, as rumoured, acting as DS for the Isle of Man team the following day (he was still injured from his crash in Harrogate at the Tour de France). The volunteer spent the few minutes while we chatted fiddling with her phone.
As we walked off again, I said, “Sorry about that, I should have introduced you. But you were checking your messages.”
“It was only my sister taking the mick,” she said. “She wanted to know if I’d seen Mark Cavendish yet — I’m a huge fan. Who was that you were talking to, by the way?”
Horrific box misunderstanding
A tale reaches us of a rider who used an annual bonus to treat himself to a new frame. It duly arrived, thoroughly packed into a biggish cardboard box.
He took it out, checked it over, and set it in the corner of the living room so he could admire it. It was incredibly light. “Are you going to tidy up?” asked his partner. “Or are you just going to leave everything there?”
“I’ll sort it later,” he replied. “The box just needs to go out with the bins.” The box sat, and sat. Until eventually it disappeared.
“Where’s the frame box?” he demanded. “I got bored waiting for you to get rid of it, and put it out with the bins,” came the reply.
“But I tidied up like you wanted! I’d put the frame back in the box!”
During a continental cycling holiday not many weeks ago, a group of pedallers stopped at a small cafe, high in the mountains. It was a
cafe of the rural, slightly fly-blown variety, making a bare living from farmers in rusty pick-ups and the odd tourist.
Dogs and cats ran loose around the premises, and came over to the group as they sat down to beg for food. They were promptly chased away, with much swearing. However, the animals were not so easily deterred.
While the riders were being distracted by the dogs, one of the cats successful wrought revenge by chewing through the Di2 gear cables of three bikes.
A certain age
Intelligence reaches us of a rider in his late 40s, on a trip to the Dolomites with a few friends. He spent the first day just about keeping up and disguising how hard he was breathing.
On day two, he had to call at a local bike shop to pick up a few energy gels. Chatting with the owner — an old pro, who had, if the photo display was to be believed, ridden with Marco Pantani — he mentioned how hard the previous day had been.
“I know what will help you,” said the owner, and went to the back room. Our hero waited nervously. Super energy gel? An aero jersey? A dripping syringe?
He came back with a catalogue of e-bikes, of a distinctly sit-up-and-beg variety. “When you get to our age,” he said, “sometimes it’s better to give up.”
More acts of cycling stupidity
A spy tells me of a member of his club who did RideLondon. This rider, let’s call him Charles, did actually get round the route pretty tidily.
However, by the last few miles he was running on fumes, and beginning to see stars. He wanted nothing as much as to get to the finish, get his kit bag back, and drink his recovery drink.
But when he got the bag, he found that almost the entire contents of the drink had leaked over the rest of his kit. In desperation he licked the bottle. Then he licked the inside of the bag. Finally, shamelessly, he started to try to suck drink off his once-clean clothes.
“When I found him post-event,” says my informant, “he was standing in plain view of hundreds of people, sucking the crotch of his underpants. We call him Y-fronts now.”
Turbo rug resistance
A story reaches us of a newcomer to the pleasures of the turbo-trainer. Having bought a trainer, of the cheaper variety that uses the tyre on a roller, he set it up in his living room, and climbed aboard.
All seemed well. But as time progressed, it got harder and harder. It felt as if the resistance was constantly increasing. He put it down to fatigue and poor pacing and redoubled his efforts.
The burning smell was harder to write off.
It turned out that the rug in his living room had rucked up, and been pulled gradually further and further into the gap between wheel and roller.
Not only was the rug ruined, but the fibres pulled into the trainer mean that whenever it’s used it smells like someone burning a sheep.
Enjoy the trip
You may have heard of aerodynamic trips — raised ridges or seams on race clothing designed to manipulate the airflow. Well, word reaches us of a suggested means of extending this principle to lower-leg areas not normally covered by a rider’s shorts.
No less a team than the Great Britain track squad debated the possibility of scratching a rider’s skin with “a rusty nail, or something like that” (shudder) to produce a raised scar in exactly the right place.
This idea was not rejected nearly as quickly as you’d have hoped.
Incidentally, another related idea was to give riders nettle stings to create a “textured” finish. This was also rejected. After another long discussion.
I stopped not long since to help a rider who’d got a puncture and no spare tube or patches. I gave him a tube, and lent him a pump. He installed the tube, gave two or three desultory pumps, stopped, and gave me the pump back.
“It’s fine, mate, pump it up properly, I don’t mind waiting,” I said.
“No, I only ever put about 20psi in,” he said. “It makes it harder.”
I thought about this. “Do you ever feel like you get more punctures than most people?” I asked him.
“Well, yes. Why do you ask?”
“Oh,” I said, “just a feeling.”
Don’t look back
A number of us were on a ride, when my friend Tony decided to push on a bit. What was surprising was that rather than simply creating a modest gap he continued to accelerate away, giving it everything he had until he was just a dot in the distance.
Miles later the rest of the group caught up with him prostrate on the grass, completely spent. When eventually he regained the power of speech he explained that he had been annoyed that someone had managed to keep up with him.
No matter how much he tried, every time he glanced over his shoulder he saw a shape drafting him.
We pointed out to him that he had been trying to drop his own shadow.
A bite to eat at the house of an acquaintance who had ridden the Peace Race in Eastern Europe in the late 1970s produced an account of his only success in the two-week race. It was an intermediate sprint.
“It’s really all I was racing for — the previous day the sprint winner got a motorbike,” he said. “But it turned out that the prizes were donated by the local town, so it wasn’t a motorbike the day I won.”
“What did you get?” I said.
“You see the bowl your pudding is in? Let’s just say I’d rather you didn’t break it.”
Not a great night
Word reaches us of a rider involved in a minor crash, who was taken to A&E. Having been cut out of his badly-shredded kit, his cuts and bruises were treated, washed, and bandaged. He was told to go home.
He pointed out that he now had literally nothing to wear.
He was given a hospital gown to cover his modesty, and discharged into the night in bare feet. It turned out that most taxi drivers are unwilling to pick up a fare who has quite so obviously just escaped from a hospital.
And the ones that do are a bit… strange.
The wrong sort of folding bike
I was recently reminded of how a school friend’s brother put himself in hospital. He’d borrowed his mother’s folding bike to go the shops — I’d imagine his had a puncture, since that was more or less permanently the case.
>>> Read more: The best folding bikes: a buyer’s guide
Freewheeling down the quite steep hill towards the shop, he recalled that some friend of his brother’s had told him it was possible to undo the frame clamp holding a Raleigh folder’s frame together, and leave it still capable of being safely ridden. He reached down, and undid the clamp.
It was a different model of bike entirely.
Red light fright
A few years ago (quite a few, if I’m honest) I took my bike on a train to visit a friend in Hertfordshire one winter evening. My bike and I got off at the small rural station, and I spent several minutes standing on the platform consulting a map, looking for the right route.
When I’d worked it out, I switched my lights on and started to head for the exit. All of a sudden there was a great screeching of an express train performing a full emergency stop.
It turned out that when I put my rear light on, the driver had thought it was a red signal. The station master shouted at me for a long time. (Contributed by Alan Weekes via email)
Once is careless, twice is…
A Scottish rider, faced with the first cold morning of the winter, just had time to register that the road surface on a roundabout was “more sparkly than usual” before his front wheel went from under him, and he hit the deck.
Uninjured, but a bit embarrassed, he jumped up, and leapt back on his bike. He quickly noticed that his front brake lever had taken the brunt of the impact and had been knocked off line.
“I gave it a hard whack with the heel of my hand. A more sensible man might have stopped riding first. Then I picked myself up for a second time, and went home to get the car.”
Spoke poke retaliation
A conversation with an old bike rider recently yielded the story of the time in the 1950s when he knocked out two of his younger brother’s teeth by thrusting a stick into the spokes of his front wheel as he rode past, throwing him over the handlebars.
“My father was furious,” he told me. “He was going to give me a thrashing, but our mother talked him out of it. So instead, he made me ride my bike down the front path, and encouraged my younger brother to put a stick into my spokes to even things up. I broke my nose and a cheekbone. My father was well pleased with this result. The next time he wanted to give either of us a thrashing, Mum just let him.”
When are they bringing it back?
In the first modern Olympics, in Athens in 1896, the organisers decided it might pack the crowds in if they ran a 12-hour bike race on the track.
Seven riders started — three Greeks, two Germans, an Austrian and a British rider, who was on his afternoon off from being the British Ambassador’s butler. Almost immediately, the Austrian Adolf Schmal attacked and gained a lap. Then he sat on the wheel of the British rider Frank Keeping for the next 11 and three-quarter hours.
Schmal won by the margin of the single lap. Keeping was second. They were the only finishers, as everyone else dropped out through boredom.
It was not an event that was ever repeated at the Olympics.
Arm-warmer face punch
I was putting on a pair of arm-warmers last week, when I lost my grip on one of them. My hand flew back, and I punched myself in the face. Mrs Doc’s mirth was unconstrained. I knew she had a mean streak, but as a bruise raised itself under my left eye, she rocked back and forth in more hilarity than seemed reasonable.
If this wasn’t an omen, I didn’t know what was. I scratched the outdoor ride, and got out the rollers for the first time this autumn.
Five minutes later, while riding no-handed and changing the track on my phone, I rode off the rollers, and fell into the dining table with a bang.
“Did you just fall off the rollers?” shouted Mrs. Doc from upstairs. I said yes, a little huffily. There was a long pause. “Don’t you want to check I’m all right?” I said.
“In a moment,” she shouted. “I’m just texting your friend Bernard. He owes me £10.”
A rider was on holiday in Spain recently with a few cycling friends. They were all riding through a cobbled village, when our hero’s front wheel dropped with a surprising clunk into a deep narrow rut in the cobbles.
Remarkably he stayed upright. Indeed, he discovered that he was wedged upright, with his front wheel buried a few inches into the cobbles. Instead of counting his blessings and quickly getting off, however, he continued to sit on the bike to perform a series of mock victory celebrations.
Very slowly he and the bike toppled over. It was so slow because the front wheel was bending beneath him. It was a write-off. And it took three days of his four-day trip to get a replacement.