Last Sunday my bike and I celebrated 3000 miles together: this magic number rolled up on my handlebar computer somewhere in the middle of Richmond Park (I can't be sure precisely where: having anticipated the moment for months when it came, of course, I missed it)
3000 miles! 3000 mainly muddy miles, for south west London has unexpected pleasures to offer the enthusiastic mountain biker. That's around 170 Sunday morning outings, perhaps 100 ascents of Richmond Alp, 75 crossings of the Col de Teddington, 30 wild descents of the Wimbledon Common Massif.
I like statistics.
- miles covered - 3000
- punctures in the rain when I was in hurry - 7
- punctures in fine weather when I have all the time in the world - 0
- broken spokes - 3
- new front tires - 2
- crushed squirrels -1
- dog bites, while actually cycling along quite fast, actual teeth actually closing on my foot - 1
- falls on to hard, dry ground - 4
- falls into the cold, clammy River Crane - 1
We go pretty fast, for forty-something mountain bikers, but not so fast that we can't speak. "Of course its more than 3000 miles, really", I remarked casually, carelessly, to my cycling buddy as he pedalled, red faced, sweating and panting beside me, dutifully admiring the display that read 3001 "yes, a lot more than 3000 miles if you count the miles I've ridden with the computer not working"
"Well I don't count them," he replied, "No one would: just as the tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear it, makes not a sound, so the mile cycled without a computer to record it, is a mile untravelled" and with that he shot ahead.
Now, over the years the conventions for philosophical argument on two wheels have become very well established between us: in order to make your rejoinder you have to catch up, pull out of the slipstream and work your way alongside.
Put it this way: it's a form of philosophy in which you don't waste words.
It's also a form of debate that has the advantage of being the only type of philosophical discourse, at least so far as I am aware, that can be won by the strength in your calves. It's a bit like Alan Turing's run-around-the-house-chess, except you are more likely to end up sprawling on the floor with the contents of a water-bottle emptied down the back of your neck (a roughly 2 times in 170 chance, to be precise).
I couldn't quite catch him, so I squirted my water-bottle from a distance. I missed.
But 3000 miles! Did I celebrate? Reader: I held a margarita party. But is it still a party, if nobody comes?