I’ve got a jolly book from 1960 intended for spiffing young chaps and chapesses wanting to pursue cycling as a hobby. Among the many pieces of jaunty and I would say timeless advice (I can’t find the damn thing right now, but if memory serves it gives the same advice on road position as you get today) is a warning about a distressing state of fatigue and despondency known to clubmen as ‘the bonk’ or ‘the knock’ or ‘the sags’ or being in ‘a packet’.
I’d read that the derivation of bonk is indeed related to the colloquialism for penetrative sexual intercourse that is the main use of the word in the non-cycling population. Something about a Tour de France legend who was convinced that shagging one of the many groupies the night before particularly tough days would give a much needed boost. I can’t remember whether that means you bonk on the day because you’ve not bonked the night before, or because you have bonked but should have slept.
Given the innocent nature of the book, and the raised eyebrow at the presumption of cycling groupies, I’m not so sure. Either way, it’s a rubbish name and when you forget that not everyone is au fait with velocipedilingo, you get giggled at.
I was put on this train of thought by bonking this afternoon. I had a slight excess of my beloved Leffe last night and didn’t eat nearly enough proper food, then this morning I only had two breakfasts, neither of which as big as usual. When I finally got round to looking at how good a day for cycling it was, I talked myself out my muzzy ennui and onto the bike, my main argument being that I’ll probably not get another good day on it this year and I’ve been broke since I bought it, so I better get the use. They call it willpower when it’s you talking to you, but really it’s just bullying and emotional blackmail with someone you love, as Woody Allen almost said.
Once I was clear of the city and the adrenaline rush that is the cycling infrastructure around IKEA, the ridiculous prettiness of the lands south of Edinburgh meant I forgave myself for all that Gunnery Sergeant Mymum and soaked up the views as I merrily spun on, mild hangover and calorie deficit be damned.
Unfortunately it seems 40 miles is my limit in such circumstances, which is moderately poor since I was in Dalkeith, which gets city rules in terms of leaving my bike unlocked outside an emergency cake shop for ‘just a minute’, ie no fucking way. It’s only 10 miles or so home from that point, so unlike last time it wasn’t a major fuss. On that occasion I was that entire 40 miles from home, and probably wouldn’t have made it if not for Andy, Tom, Dougie and Dave towing me back. If you’re not a cyclist: there wasn’t a rope connecting us; it means they rode very close in front of me so I could ride in their slipstream, making a difference to required effort that has to be felt to be believed.
So tomorrow I’ll likely get giggled at when I absentmindedly describe what my weekend was like.