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VecchioJo on the vanishing art of just shutting up and pedaling

There is a quiet, undervalued, frequently necessary cycling discipline appreciated by a dwindling population of riders that goes by largely undocumented.

It is in no way glamourous enough to be covered by the sticky cloying icing that is the kudos and struggle and epic and smash it and all the embellishment that somehow needs to be draped about before you get on a push-bike these days. It is devoid of any romance, it’s not required to be hard although there are times when a level of effort needs to be applied, if you should mention it no-one really cares. It is mostly boring.

It is the simple task of Just Getting It Done.

A subtle difference to merely riding along and very different to anything that might be described as training it’s the basic need to get on with things, whether that be the demand or desire to cover some distance, a pressure to get home, racing against darkness, weather or just plain old time. There is no basting in the sentimental iconography of the challenge up a famous climb here, there is no calling upon fabled names passed down through history involved nor any regurgitated motivational tropes because it is most often carried out on an unremarkable road that goes from A to B, or part thereof. That section of busy road that’s unpleasant but has to be ridden, that stretch to cover past all the industrial units to get in or out of town, that rolling road along the valley to get to the main objective of the day, the shit quick way instead of the wiggly pretty way. There is often not much to commend it, merely a slowly changing clock and distance to look at, a white line, maybe a headwind. There is nothing more to it than settling into the saddle, getting your head down physically, mentally and metaphorically and just tapping it out; simple plain, dull, tedious rpm pedaling. There is no need for any histrionics, no glancing sideways through bloodshot and narrowed eyes as an imaginary camera takes a picture of you looking gritty. No fuss, steady away, job to do.

Whether the Just Getting It Done lasts for a few miles, the final 45 minutes to find you back at your front door or takes the best part of a day to cover an impressive yet unavoidable distance there is a skill to maintaining a steady pace in an efficient and steady lupine lope. No going flat out or wearing yourself out in a fast-slow-fast-slow rhythm but sticking to a metronomic eternal tempo without a word. Well maybe some muttered oaths about the monotonous moil of it all, or hummed words of an earworm song to get you through. On your own there is little to commend the activity, just the satisfaction that you did it, there was no faffing, faltering or fannying about. A simple act of efficient, conscious, dedicated pedaling. Allow yourself the smallest pat on the back for the most menial of tasks.

With other riders you need to be amongst those that have an instinct for what needs to be done, and when, and how. There is no ripping each other’s legs off, there is no ego attacking or trying to ride off wheels, there is just a quiet purpose and applied determination to work together to get to where you have to get to for when you need to. Often there is nothing said to start proceedings because nothing needs to be said, it just does, enough knowledge is soaked into the legs to make it just happen and everyone slots into place and takes their turn in Just Getting It Done. Once complete there might be an appreciative nod or a polite thank you at best but there’s no need for high-fives and exaltations, it’s just riding a bike. Something necessary was done.

The ability to Just Get It Done is often what makes a cyclist a rider of merit and worth having along. It is not always the deftness to dance on the pedals up a climb, the grunting power to win the sprint for the sign, or the bragging rites of PBing it all the way round. The ability to just shut up and get on with it when it needs to be done is a worthy quality; file it alongside the indefinite characteristic of being useful. There is no lifting the bike aloft, no medals, no t-shirts or notifications, nor is there flap, whining, bluster or grumble. There is Just Getting It Done.

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

2 comments

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BehindTheBikesheds [2613 posts] 2 months ago
4 likes

Since giving up the car last October I've been doing a lot more 'just getting it done' riding.

Today's was another but the end goal made it so worth while for what is a very ordinary and somewhat annoying ride across town. Taking a 99 year old lady for a walk in the sun and a nice chat, I stayed longer than I normally do as ended up talking bikes with a past CTC member outside the residential home, this put me amongst the plebeians on the way home, but filtering past them as they sat stationary made the kick up the final slope barely noticeable.

Don't think, just get on a bike and do, whatever, wherever and whenver that is, cycling has for too many become a far too complex affair.

 

 

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kil0ran [1192 posts] 2 months ago
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I recognise this feeling. For me its the slog home on Roger Penny Way (no idea if Penny gave consent #metoo). 9 miles across open forest, invariably into a headwind, enlivened only by the odd close pass or encounter with the local wildlife. I rarely have to ride it now as I'm not commuting but I do it occasionally, mainly to remind me of how tedious it is.