It happens twice a week during winter. Usually on a day beginning with “T”. I’m in the office slouched over a difficult problem, my mind curled around the void between computer code I’ve typed and the error messages subsequently displayed. There’s no way I can leave, but he arrives, places a hand on my shoulder and informs me that it’s time to go. I have business elsewhere. I wave the “to do” list in his face, circle the deadline with a pointed finger and draw large zero on my notepad to indicate bank balance. He’s not interested and ushers me out of the office and back up the hill to my home.
I find myself hurried along by his impatient little shoves, the only stop I’m allowed is a brief trip into Co-op in order to purchase some trail bars. He can’t hide his frustration as I join a queue and bleed away another few minutes. Finally we arrive home. I open the door and step back into the warmth, welcomed further by the smell of home cooking. I’ve not eaten since midday, there’s nothing I’d like more than a meal and a rest. But he’s in cahoots with my wife. Laid out on the side are my cycling clothes, shoes and an assortment of charged lights. A rucksack is by the door guarded by a set of dry winter boots and some overshoes. Three plates of food are placed upon the table, the fourth, mine , is transferred to the warming drawer. I stare pleadingly at the food but he’s having none of it. Silently he directs me up the stairs, calling me back after I attempt to leave without my cycling kit. As I reach the first floor I can hear the rain rhythmically striking the window, a natural morse code for “maybe tomorrow instead?”. But he’s right behind me weaving his virtual light sabre that vaporises each and every excuse. I traipse to the bedroom and festoon myself in layer upon layer of merino. The morse code gets louder. I add waterproofs and smear contract lenses onto tired eyes. Meanwhile he’s stood in the middle of the room, on repeat, continually gesturing towards the door as if directing traffic. These gestures continue down to the garage where I’m faced with a wall full of bikes.
It’s been a long day already, I’m tired and if I have to ride then I’d like to take things relatively easy. I move to lift the carbon geared hardtail from the wall but my way is blocked. He’s stood in my way, motionless, arms folded and determined to prevent me from releasing this bike from its chains. I step left the the geared cyclocross bike, he moves, this bike is also off tonight’s agenda. The merry dance continues around all of the geared bikes my last option is the singlespeed, I step left desperately hoping to be barred from this bike and sent back in. He remains rooted to the spot.
Oh joy. The singlespeed, it’s bad enough that the rain is hammering down, at least offer me a few gears to negate the pain of the hills? Nope, he’s happy with the singlespeed, he seems to be happy with anything that’s going to add further to my discomfort. I check my backpack for bricks then scoot into the dark, cocooned in a small arc of light radiating from the front of my bars. I hear the click of a button as he starts a stopwatch and feel his expectation add further weight to my ride.
The first mile is road and I’m left to myself for a while. As always when cycling my mind begins to unclutter and kinks in my thought process are ironed out. Five minutes of listening to my own breath solve the computer code problem. I want to be back in the office right now driving a text editor rather than riding this bike. But there he is in the shadows waving a “tut tut” finger and looking accusingly at the stopwatch. I park the solution and veer left onto a muddy track that skirts a lake. Various duck like things quack or honk announcing my arrival to their mates. Branches reach into my arc of light in an attempt to unseat me. Lone night fishermen have their carp fantasies briefly interrupted as my wheels splash mud at their bivis.
This track yields to a disused railway line allowing me to burn some easy miles in the dark. But he’s on to my skiving and blocks the track forcing me to skid right onto a long byway climb. This is hard work in the rain as adhesion dissipates requiring additional pedal strokes to keep the bike moving up. The single gear attacks my cadence and I’m about to leave the saddle when I hear him shout “NOT ON MY WATCH SONNY”. He compels me to climb seated making the ascent harder whilst prolonging the pain.
I crest and the climb is over, but there’s no relenting in effort as I steer the bike through a long section of tractor made ruts. These watery mini-canals were made for the betting man as each gives no true indication of depth forcing a constant set of gambles as to which line to chose. Eventually I choose wrong, my front wheel dives hub deep into the frigid water, shortly afterwards so do I.
The final straw has been placed upon my camel’s back and I hurl profanities into the black space above. Water seeps into my clothes robbing my heat in a desperate attempt to stop becoming ice. I’ve just about had it with this ride, but he hasn’t. There he is again standing over me with disappointment scrawled across his face. Two palms gesture upwards, he doesn’t care about my crash, he’s silently telling me that this is no time to rest the ride is not yet done.
I fumble along a few more miles of ruts gingerly testing each water course placed in my path until an ancient hill fort is gained. It’s a welcome sight, I know that the tracks leading down from here will take me home with little drama. It would be nice to relax and enjoy the spin home, but I can’t. I catch sight of him, sat on an old wooden fence tapping at his watch delivering fistfuls of coercion with his impatient manner. “Forza, allez, schneller, get on with it!” he shouts in as many languages as he can to ensure that I get the message. So I wind up the cadence to be rid of him and spin my wheels home as fast as 32×16 will allow.
Two hours after being hustled out of the door I skid to a halt on my drive. The temperature has dropped further so I consider chucking the muddy bike in the garage deferring its cleaning. A wagging finger dissuades me as the other hand hands me the hose. I chill further as every last morsel of mud is washed from the bike. He circles me in a supervisory manner eventually nodding briefly to indicate that my final task is complete. As I hang the bike up in the garage he fades into the dark the words “see you later this week” trail behind him.
Finally I can regain the warmth, discard filthy clothing into the sink and gorge upon a dried up meal that’s nearly three hours old. Silently I curse my tormentor. I know who he is and I know why he does this. His motives are simple and selfish and born from bitter experience. This man is a time traveller sent from the future to ensure that I ride my bike when the weather turns bad. But he’s no stranger, in fact I know this man better than anyone else due to the simple fact that the time traveller is me.
The cajoling, unsympathetic, harsh, demanding man from beyond is the Dave of cycling future. He’s the guy on a mission to ensure that every moment of good weather possible is enjoyed upon the bike. He knows that fitness for him is the key, he needs a decent set of legs and some lungs to go with them. He needs endurance and a will to go on when the legs are begging to go home. This Dave also knows that all of these things will not happen unless the Dave of cycling present gets out and rides his bike. So he travels back through time to ensure that it happens each week during winter. The Dave of cycling future has met the Dave of cycling past, a shrivelled up bonked mess of fatigue lying wasted by the side of trails that are itching to be ridden. He didn’t like this Dave and he never wants to meet him again. That’s why he time travels, that’s why he nags and that’s why he’s unrelenting. As the custodian of the cycling future he’s determined to learn the lessons of the cycling past.