Combattere l'uomo con il martello

L’uomo col martolle is the man you hate.  He is also the reason to ride.

In cycling folklore lurks a man (or woman) who has the unique ability to cause the most crippling pain.  They are the ultimate provocateur of cycling and will visit every cyclist.  From a 5 year old on their first proper exploratory bike rides, through weekday commuters, weekend warriors, seasoned sportive and audax riders to highly tuned pro cyclist in the middle of classic and Grand Tours to hardened trans-continental ultra-endurance cyclist.  The Man with the Hammer will inevitably strike nearly every cyclist at some point.  On some days, the Man with the Hammer is an unexpected guest that strikes when you need to get home or finish the ride quickly.  Other days you may ride hours purposefully to provoking him into striking, up for a fight and wanting to to do battle before he hits and makes you cry.  He also doesn’t care if you're riding solo, in a group, showboating in front of you club, on a winning break or nearly home.  The more you ride, the further out you’ll find him, but at some point he will find you.

I thought I would explain a little about the Man with the Hammer as I often refer to him in blogs or conversations.  The Man with the Hammer is not an actual person - unless you are familiar with Bidston Moss.  The Man with the Hammer is the limit within yourself when you’re riding and the body just says “No.”  More often, it’s not just a “no” but a resounding “fuck off, you’re done.”

The mythology of the Man with the Hammer more comes from the feelings that creep in while you’re riding.  Often it starts with an odd twinge, hunger pang or slight niggle.  As you try and fight it off by shifting positions, swigging from a bottle or eating a food stash, the next area sneaks it - a sore neck, the balls of your hands start to feel fatigued on the bars or the stomach keeps churning.  Next goes is the shoulders and the legs start to go heavy.  If your rides not finished soon, you will be because the Man with the Hammer is about to strike.  If you’ve still got distance to go, expect the Hammer to hit - legs start to cramp, your wheels go square, every meter feels like a kilometer, every breath feels like breathing through a straw and every slight incline feels like an Alp.  The Hammer has come down on your shoulders.

As every cyclist develops, the Man with the Hammer gets further away.  What would be a 40 mile epic ride a few years ago with strategic planning, a full night of carb loading and matching socks becomes something that you can do on an afternoon with a water bottle, a banana and a mini flap jack.  The Man with the Hammer recedes over the horizon as your body learns that this is a fight you can win.

Then comes the blaise.  You’re a seasoned roadie who’ll think nothing of an imperial century on a Saturday afternoon.  You’ve been in work all day so fancy a 40 miler after work.  You saddle up, no special prep and off you go.  Then when you are least expecting, the Man with the Hammer strikes - you’ve not brought an extra energy bar or the wind has been higher than expected and the Man with the Hammer has taken his chance.  Now you have to square peddle home…….

For the next 8 months or so until I’ve finished this project, I know the Man with the Hammer will visit me.  He’ll probably visit me several times.  I can even predict where and when he’ll strike for some case next year, but I know that it’s a fight I want to fight.  Some will be minor skirmishes, some will be long drawn out battles.  I also know that every time the Man with the Hammer brings me to a halt, i slump over the handlebars and try and find the energy to move a few meters more, I hurt but the next time I ride he’ll find it harder to be me.

The Man with the Hammer isn’t a man on the roadside.  He’s part of riding and hides inside every cyclist.  He’s a twat and has to be beaten.


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