I see them, looking at me. Scowling in bewilderment from behind the wheels of their cars.
‘What the hell is that clown doing?’ he says to his missus. ‘The state of him, and it’s pissing rain…’
And I know what he means. I’ve thought it myself if I’m honest. What the hell am I doing out here? In the rain. In black tights and a comedy helmet, an arterial spray of road filth hissing up from my back wheel as I pass him in his boy-racer Vauxhall, his white Land-Rover, his Mercedes entitlement. What the hell am I doing out here? I should be in bed. It’s Saturday morning. I should be sitting in some painfully trendy East London hipster eatery, chowing down on scrambled eggs served in a teapot or some other such bollocks. But here I am – dripping wet, muscles creaking, grinding up another hill, watching the Garmin, cursing it with every glance.
And then, coming in the opposite direction, a group of riders. Rain jackets flapping, the Saturday morning club ride.
‘Morning’ they say, one by one, a flash of wheels and lycra.
‘Morning’ I call back, forcing a smile.
The lad at the back of the group and I make eye-contact. And we exchange nods of the head. Two minutes later another lad come past; another nod. Five minutes later, another group, another round of nods.
And then it hits me: that’s why I do this. That nod. That simple nod. The silent greeting of the MAMIL. The masonic handshake of the roadie. The simple, human, civility of it. The shared understanding that we should all be home in our beds, or sitting reading the Guardian in an overpriced breakfast roll pop-up shop or losing the will to live in an Ikea. But we’re not. We’re out here. In the rain and the crap and the honking of the horns, spinning the lanes and the hills.
See you on the road.
Image: Viene un Tormenta. Taken on the Camino de Santiago, Spain. (c) Damien DeBarra, 2016.
Words: (c) Damien DeBarra, 2016.