There are a few things that, as riders, we enjoy hearing. Things such as “you’re looking fat”, meaning the opposite, “you’re looking lean”, meant literally, and “nice bike,” because it bloody should be for the money you spend on it.
I’m writing this in April and it’s about this time that, if you’ve been doing things properly, you might hear the phrase that means more to us cyclists than any other. You might hear them when you’re stopped at the finishing point for your club training session. A rider rolls in a short while behind you and utters those three magic words, “you’re going well.” Be still my beating heart.
To be told that “you’re going well” is to be endorsed by your peers, it’s the sign that the sacrifices you made over winter were at least partially worth it, you feel like there should be a specific jersey for riders who are officially ‘going well’. It’d definitely make knowing which breakaway attempt to follow much easier to judge.
Like all beautiful tools, swords, power sanders, yachts, “you’re going well’ can also be turned from constructive device to destructive weapon. Using a yacht as a weapon might be slightly out of most of our price ranges and seafaring capabilities, but “you’re going well” is something we can easily pervert from it’s intended purpose. To tell another rider “you’re going well” is always a recognition of their form but in the wrong hands it can also contain a subliminal message of “you can probably just take it easy now, no need to keep doing what’s been working so well for you.” Essentially the acknowledgment that someone is going well can also be used to ensure that they don’t do so for too much longer.
I’ve recently been blessed with the three most beautiful words in the English language (yes I’m aware that it’s technically four and that one of them is simply a contraction) but what does it actually mean to be going well? To me it means to be comfortable with your own discomfort, to have spent so long suffering that suffering loses the ability to control you. Suffering becomes like the doorbell ringing while you’re in the bath. You know it’s there and you know it means that you’ll have to pick up your parcel from the Post Office, now, but at the same time you don’t feel any urgency to rectify the situation.
To me, to be ‘going well’ also means potential. I don’t have to be riding fast, but it is about knowing that I could if I wanted to. It also doesn’t mean being the fastest, you might beat me up this punchy hill but you won’t be doing so after 4 hours of riding, that’s when ‘going well’ comes into its own. ‘Going well’ is specific to all of us and is relative to our ability, but to be in that zone is to feel everything working to it’s best ability. When you’re going well you fit on the bike like you were born to be on it. Your legs have been tortured and battered but they are now rock solid and know that their only purpose in life is to repeatedly fill with lactic acid and power you up hills. Your core is tighter meaning you can stay in tortuous poses for endless hours, if you were in Guantanamo Bay you’d have been fast tracked straight through the stress position test and moved on to being waterboarded, way before any of your friends.
Going well you catch your reflection in the window, as you ride past a shop, and glimpse how good you look on your bike; Climb out of the saddle, on a long climb, and you imagine how good you look on your bike; Take a picture, and then add a classy black and white filter, and touch up all the blemishes, and you see how good you look on a bike. “You’re going well.”
But this is April, and the seasons will wax and wane. It’ll soon be October and nature will attempt to restore balance. First it’ll throw some rain at you, then it’ll mix it with some freezing temperatures before stealing away the amount of daylight hours. Next up it’ll offer you loads of cakes and good television, and you’ll swap your lightning fast summer bike for that winter monstrosity that you haven’t seen since March. You’re at the finishing point for your club training session. A rider rolls in a few seconds behind you and says nothing.
You’re not going well any more.