Life used to be much simpler when it came to mid-ride stops. If it was a road ride, the stop would be a stop at a café or tea shop whereas mountain bike rides always took in a pub. It was a simple unwritten rule.
The other weekend I’d arranged to meet friends for Sunday lunch in a local pub. I’d got an early ride in and forgone any stops along the way, so as to be sure to have time to meet my friends, without having to rush around once I got home.
Arriving at the pub, I was surprised to see a selection of high-end road bikes outside and, sitting beside them, a collection of riders in various team kit.
Unfortunately for my lunch companions, I couldn’t let this go; it just doesn’t seem right to me. Road rides are serious affairs and as such, should have no time for fripperies such as drinking beer in the sun.
Perhaps more importantly, how are you expected to carbo load on pasties and cakes at a pub? It seems to me that the only food you can get in pubs is either crisps and the like, or meat and two veg style dinners; not the sort of thing you’d want to pack away mid-ride…
Similarly, I can’t imagine that a pint of lager halfway through a ride would do much for my Strava times. To be honest, a lunchtime pint these days is enough to put me to sleep. I need the mid-ride shot of caffeine associated with the traditional café stop to keep me turning the pedals…
It secretly makes me feel very continental too, sitting outside with a tiny espresso taking in the sun. Granted that only works about twice a year in the UK with the dreadful climate we have, but the thought stays with me even when I’m sheltering from the rain on a cold and wet Sunday morning.
Since that Sunday lunchtime, I’ve been thinking on this and I’ve come to some conclusions. Basically, everything comes down to the influx of new blood into cycling, not just road but mountain biking too.
It used to be the case that cycling rituals, folklore and etiquette was passed on during rides and club runs, but today with social media taking the place of traditional clubs there isn’t the same rigid structure and hierarchy to retain those old rules and ways.
When it comes to the changing face of mountain bike refreshments, I’m going to point my finger at trail centres as being the reason it’s rare to see a bunch of mountain bikers sitting in beer gardens these days. Today’s riders turn up in their cars, unload the bike, ride around and then head to the centre’s café for an over-priced coffee.
It was never like that in my day. We didn’t have trail centres. We got on our bike and rode from home to find bridleways to get our off-road experience. Then, because we were on our bikes there seemed nothing wrong with having a pint or two on the way home. It was always fun to recount the crashes, and the highs and lows of the ride, embellishing them along the way with the aid of alcohol.
Maybe it’s time for me to put my prejudices aside and accept that beer is the new tea. After all, I’ve finally managed to transition from steel framed bikes to carbon ones, so anything is possible. Just don’t expect to find me sitting in a trail centre café with a chai latte. No, I’ll be riding away with a can of beer in my hand and a wistful look in my eye.
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