(Haven’t quite worked out where this will fit.
Its another on Dyce’s list – putting off aging by trying to keep fit and stay young and being competitive.
Introduces control freek Tony.
We hear about Dilwyn’s illness.)
Dyce joined the choir in summer, when the evening class finished. By the following spring, what with the audition and concerts, including a hectic Christmas, he’d graduated from new boy to back row baritone.
Must have been May when Tony came across during the rehearsal break.
‘Would you like to do a bike ride?, he said, ’For charity. “Savingvision”. They do loads of eye operations in tents out in the Indian Bush’.
Dyce’d never heard of them and he was allergic to collecting money.
‘Yes.’ he said, too quickly. He could ride a bike, so no big deal. ‘But don’t expect too much dosh’.
‘Fair enough,’ said Tony.
A major piano chord sounded and they shuffled back to their seats for the start of the second half. Dilwyn concentrated on a tenor solo. Boyd, Dyce’s neighbour on the back row of the baritones, whispered out of the corner of his mouth, ‘Did Tony nab you for the bike ride?’
‘Yes’, Dyce whispered back.
‘How can we rehearse with you lot prattling?’ Dilwyn shouted, half turning toward them, eyes closed, face red and sour.
The cricket season was virtually over when Tony convened the cyclists again. There was only the cup match left.
‘Two weeks to go’, said Tony, ‘we need a few training rides’.
Suddenly Dyce was alert. What do we need to train for? ‘How far is it?’ he asked.
‘Oh. And the route?’
‘Dobb Moss, Jakefield Moor, a couple of others.’
These were the two highest local hills, only one of which was reachable by road, and they weren’t next to each other. Reality dawned.
‘Sunday morning OK? I’ll ring round to confirm’, said Tony as he turned and walked to the bar.
Dyce looked at Boyd and the others, ’Are we still doing this?’
‘Did it last year,’ said Boyd, ‘It were easy. I could’ve gone round again.’
He had a smile from ear to ear, so Dyce didn’t believe him. And why was Boyd limping?
‘How many pints have you had?’ Dyce asked.
While they waited for late comers to get to the first training ride, Dyce reminded Tony of his poor record at getting sponsorship. Tony didn’t seem unduly worried.
‘Its only a charity. I’ve got £200 do far. It’s what I like doing.’
Dyce was beginning to recognise an inveterate organiser. A man who can’t stop himself from running something. Mobilising the troops. Jeremy’s a cyclist, he’ll come. Boyd as well. What about Baz? Dyce will do it. The hell he will, and yet here he was at training.
Everyone was on mountain bikes, except for Dyce who was on a decent enough bike, but inappropriate for rough country. They’d been on a track for five minutes when the chain broke. Dyce chucked it away in disgust and walked four miles back home. He rang one of the larger cycle shops the following day, ‘Get the chain back and repair it’, they said, ‘you’ll not break in a new one’.
So he bought the required kit, successfully remembered where he’d thrown the chain, and repaired it.
The second training ride a week later seriously undermined any thoughts that Dyce might do the charity event. After a two minutes on a mildly undulating strip of mud and rocks, he lost his grip and fell off, injuring his elbow and busting a toestrap. Remounting, his heart sank as he heard the sound of ominous metal scrapes and rattles. The rear mech was engaging with the wheel spokes. Dyce had to face up to this. If he persisted with the road bike on tracks it would become permanently disabled and him with it.
‘Haven’t you got a mountain bike?’ asked Tony, as Dyce started to walk home again. Stupid pillock.
Dyce quickly turned to face Tony and caught the tail end of a smirk, ‘Sorry, course you haven’t’, said Tony.
There were only two or three days to go before the charity race when Dyce decided he couldn’t do it. He’d a problem though. His wife had thirty quids worth already lined up. She’d baked a cake for work. Have a piece and sponsor this idiot she’d said. Her colleagues in the staff room had chuckled and gladly obliged.
‘They’ll want to know you’ve done it,’ she said.
Shoot, this was money in the bank. He couldn’t bare to ask for sponsorship; a bit like selling raffle tickets – he usually ended up buying them all himself. If he didn’t ride, what’d he do with the money? He’d give it back. No, he’d do half and give half back. Oh, shoot, he’d do it.
They were due one last training ride and Tony’d chosen a road section of the course for Dyce’s benefit. The question had to be asked. Dyce, when are you going to get a mountain bike? He’d no immediate answer. Maybe he couldn’t do it after all.
Jeremey, eternal optimist and good samaritan, offered his machine, ‘Rear brake’s a bit sticky and the chain slips.’
‘What are you using then?’ Dyce was nettled and wasn’t about to accept help.
‘I’ve borrowed this other one from a mate.’
‘Well if you’re not riding that one then neither am I,’ Dyce knew he was being childish. By the way the others were sighing and avoiding his gaze they must think so too.
‘It only needs a bit doing to it,’ said Jeremy.
Jeremy wasn’t the reason for Dyce’s petulance. The real reason was moving his bike back and forward, impatient and looking to be off. Dyce wondered how he’d ever allowed himself to be mugged by Tony.
‘We’ll see, thanks for the offer.’
The conversation in front of all the cyclists had effectively committed Dyce to the ride. Jeremy’s good humour was partly responsible, but Dyce was aware he would lose some serious face if he didn’t do it because he’d turned down help.
There was only one shop in Dersford that hired mountain bikes. Dyce discovered from Yellow Pages that it was nearly at Barnsley. He gave them a ring. ‘You can have a twenty inch something, cost you £20.’
Dyce’d already paid £12 to enter the ride and £7.50 for a chain repair kit, more than the sponsorship he’d been promised. Pathetic.
‘Collect it Saturday’.
He took the wrecked road bike in for repair on the way. Two lads, neither more than thirty, and both with low levels of conversational skill were serving on. Maybe they needed some sessions in the childbride’s staff room thought Dyce? They soon discovered he was harmless.
‘That’ll be £50 deposit,’ one of them swiped Dyce’s card whilst the other gave him a tutorial. How to take the wheels off – why should he need to know that? Here’s the repair kit, tyre levers and a spare inner tube – shoot, what had he done?
He was now down £89.50 and confused. Was his fifty quid deposit safe? Still it was a brand new mountain bike. An uneasy feeling gently rose under his ribs as he doubted his sanity – he had to do it but on the whole he’d rather not.
He had a trial ride on the road in front of the house. Easy, gears here, yes the brakes work, seat’s a bit low, needs adjusting. Five minutes and he thought he’d got it.