For the first hour my feet didn’t do one single rotation on those pedals. And I spent that hour smiling to myself at the genius of the entrepreneurial Balinese who’ve set up Downhill cycling tours. I mean what a canny understanding of Western culture. We’re fat and lazy. For the most part I mean. Obviously there are some people for whom the idea of cycling uphill or even on the flat appeals. I’m just not one of them.
I used to be. I once cycled 500km across Cuba. It wasn’t really across. It was mainly up Cuba. It was character building and also the only time I’ve ever tantrumed full on in public since I was three. I’ve also cycled all over the south of France with tent, sleeping bag and baguette strapped to my panniers. Those were the days. The hazy, crazy days of my twenties. I’ve moved on. By car.
There are about 50 downhill cycling tours to choose from in Ubud. They drive you to the top of the volcano and then you cycle down. Clever huh?
So I start off feeling great. I get the best of both worlds. I am cycling but I’m not really cycling. There is no sweat involved, in fact, there’s no muscle movement involved other than by my thumbs which are permanently squeezing the breaks.
But then after one hour it stops being downhill. It stops being flat. It starts to incline. Upwards. I start shooting lasers at the guide in front of me. He is wearing a green t-shirt. He is pedalling. His t-shirt says Downhill. I want to holler to him about the trade descriptions act and his company’s flagrant breach of it. I want to but I can’t because I’m out of breath and I’ve now fallen about 200 metres behind everyone else. I am panting up the hill in the lowest gear or is it the highest? I don’t know. It feels like the wrong gear but I work my way through all the others and they feel even worse so I work my way back/up again.
But the worst thing is that now I can hear the car behind me. The support car. The one that follows the last person , curb crawling, like in the Tour de France. Except it never curb crawls Lance Armstrong because he’s always at the front. It only crawls after the loser. I can feel the driver. I know he is wondering whether he should just get out and rescue me and I seriously think about throwing off a flip flop (I cycle prepared huh?) and claiming I can no longer ride on shoeless. The others are now out of sight. I glance over my shoulder. There it is. The car is breathing down my neck. Behind it are about six mopeds and two other cars. I hear honking. I want to die but I don’t even have enough breath left to do that.
We finally arrive at our destination.
‘Did you enjoy?’ says our beaming guide.
‘Downhill huh?’ I pant in reply.
He hands me a wet towel straight from the fridge. Like the opposite of the ones they give you in an Indian restaurant. I want to chuck it at him but I am so sweaty I don’t. I just take it and glare.