Driving in January can be exhilarating or dismal - not much in between. I’m thinking of those crisp sunny days versus the day-long pall of
grey, penetrating damp. My recent drive on the Buxton road was the latter version. Hardly anyone else on the roads too which was a bonus but a rapidly thickening mist detracted from even that.
Anyhow, as I trundled along winding roads at the regular speed I
spotted a distant cyclist in my rear view screen. Nothing odd about that but I
didn’t recall ever passing a cyclist. Was he gaining on me too? Surely not. Maybe
he’d emerged from a side road but I didn’t recall passing one of those either.
Oh well - my geography isn’t too hot so I shrugged and drove on.
About a minute later I glanced again in my rear view screen and that cyclist was still there. He wasn’t keeping pace with me either – he was definitely closer. I could see him much more clearly now. He wore some
kind of dark cycling goggles for example. Strange in that weather and level of visibility but I could
see him quite clearly.
He crouched low over the handlebars, legs pumping hard, staring straight
ahead. Staring at me as far as I could see but no doubt that was my
imagination. As he was obviously some kind of top class rider I decided to pull
into a lay-by and let him pass before driving on. I was in no hurry. From where
I’d parked the car in the lay-by I couldn’t see back down the road so I just
A minute passed and still no cyclist. Another minute and
then another so reluctantly I climbed out of the warmth of the car to
An empty road – no cyclist. Nobody at all.
Oh well, maybe he turned off somewhere. I climbed back into
the car and resumed my journey. A few minutes later – yes you’ve guessed it –
the cyclist appeared again in my rear view screen. This time I accelerated and
when I saw I couldn’t shake him off I drew into another lay-by, jumped out of
the car and stepped out into the road to check out that blasted cyclist –
“What the – what are you doing?” With a scrunching slither
the cyclist skidded out of the mist and almost sent us both sprawling across
“I’m sorry about that.” Oh hell he was just an ordinary
lycra-clad cyclist unprepared for loons like me jumping out at him on a
deserted road –
“No harm done mate. Are you okay?” The question sounded
friendly enough, though the eyes were invisible behind that dark goggles. Like the question, his breath hung there in the cold air between us.
“Er yes I’m fine,” I replied eventually. Of course I was fine, what did he really mean?
“Only I was wondering why you kept going slower and slower back there.
I thought there might be a problem that’s all.”
“I was going slower?”
“Yes mate – really slowing down. I was catching you up. Didn’t
“But I drove faster when I saw you gaining on me –"
“No mate – you slowed down. I’ve been doing the
same speed all the way. I’m not superhuman. And I'm late.” With a quick glance down the
road he rode off, soon disappearing into the mist, the red eye of his rear
light vanishing shortly afterwards.
After that I turned the car round and set off home. By then
the mist was more like fog and home seemed the better option. Anyhow I didn’t
want to pass that cyclist further up the road. He probably thought I was a bit cracked - or worse. Yes –
home was definitely the better option.
“Sounds to me as if you were slowing down as he said.
Nothing else explains it because nobody is superhuman outside the movies.”
That was Grainger’s opinion when we met up later in the pub and I told him
about my experience with the cyclist.
“Of course I wasn’t slowing down. Strewth I can tell the
difference between speeding up and slowing down.” I was quite indignant but
Grainger often has that effect on people.
“Yes but it was foggy,” Grainger replied. "Speed can be deceptive, visual reference points change without you noticing."
“It was misty rather than foggy, but so what?”
“So the car will have detected the mist or the fog and is
bound to have slowed down anyway. They all do that these days - it's a basic safety feature. Even an old car like yours knows when it's foggy.”
“Same difference – poor visibility and getting dark. The car knew -”
“Yes but I would still have known –“
“Not you. You’re too old-fashioned.”
“Old-fashioned? In what way?”
“You still think people are in control.”