Poem 173 – Service Required

Hello sir, what can we do for you?
A mystery sensation when you pedal?
Hmm, might be the bottom bracket’s bearings,
is there a crunching when you turn the cranks?
Those pedals, are they new? Perhaps your cleats
are loose or worn. Let’s strip her down and change
your chain, it’s stretched and straining the cassette.
Your derailleurs look dodgy, did you know
(a cheeky wink) that wheels have nipples.
We’ll check your cables and their casing, rust
can stop their operation, make them snag.
Same for your brakes, your callipers and levers,
and let’s index those gears to make them smooth.
But sir, I hate to say it but I must,
have you considered that another factor
might be at play? Perhaps it’s not the bike
that creaks (a wince), perhaps it’s you.
Maybe the grinding’s in your knees, the pain
comes from a back that’s old and worn. I fear
There’s not so much that we can do…
                                                                                for you.

I find when I’m cycling for any length of time that I begin to obsess about the sound and feel of my bike. The smallest thing becomes amplified until I become convinced there’s something wrong. Am I just looking for an excuse, or looking in the wrong place?

© Ben Quant 2023
Image by Jarkko Mänty from Pixabay

Poem 171 – The Longest Ride

My longest ride awaits.
The bike is set and shoes
await for me to slip
them on and clip them in.
They sit and beckon yet
I hesitate, it’s been
too long since I have pushed
myself this far. I wonder,
do I have the legs or will
they turn to futile mush,
betray me? Foolishly
I’ve shared my plans. The only
choice is suffering
embarrassment or pain.
Too late I speculate:
why do we test ourselves
like this? I sigh, reach out
and put them on and leave…

Today I’m killing two birds with one stone. I have a midday meeting in Cambridge and decided to use it as a training exercise ahead of the London-Essex 100 in May, and am cycling up and back. It’s just under 80 miles. It sounded fun when I first mentioned it. Today it feels a little daunting…
I’m raising funds for Parkinson’s UK – sponsor my London 100 efforts here: https://events.parkinsons.org.uk/fundraisers/benquant/ride-london-100

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Josh Nuttall on

Poem 167 – The Futility of the Fenland Cyclist

‘It’s just a short climb,’ they said,
‘A little rise, a quick kick.
It’s nothing that will trouble you.’
But they forgot I grew up in
The Fens; a horizontal line
Of land that’s paper thin, all sky.
To me it was Mount Everest.
I set off from my base camp with
Adventure in my heart, but soon
I needed oxygen and Sherpas.
The final straw? A lycra clad
Illusion, laughing as it passed…

I’m currently training to ride the London-Essex 100 in May for Parkinson’s UK. Encountering slopes, my legs reminded me of a fleeting encounter just outside Sidmouth when I was on my first major ride… (Ps. If you want to sponsor me you can do so here: https://events.parkinsons.org.uk/fundraisers/benquant)

© Ben Quant 2023
Photo by Sebastian Graser on Unsplash

Poem 158 – Le Vélo Villanelle

I pedal steadily, wheels go round and round
The mercury rises, up and up it goes
And booming in my head, my heart pounds loud

My eyes are vacant, focussed on the ground
I find my rhythm, legs begin to flow
I pedal steadily, wheels go round and round

Though station’ry, the passing miles confound
Monotony grasps and drags, the grinding grows
And booming in my head, my heart pounds loud

The tension hangs, a dark’ning electric cloud
My will is draining, boredom bites alone
I pedal steadily, wheels go round and round

Obsessing over every wayward sound
Mechanical stutters grating down below
And booming in my head, my heart pounds loud

No winner in this race, no victor crowned
All energy gone, I’m spent, yet no one knows
I pedal steadily, wheels go round and round
And booming in my head, my heart pounds loud

I’ve recently started training for the London-Essex 100, a 100 mile bike ride, to raise funds for Parkinson’s UK (you can sponsor me here), but the weather’s grim right now, and so I’ve been using an indoor turbo trainer. It’s really not the same… I finished this villanelle (no, not the assassin in Killing Eve) last night as another stab at rhyming in a formal form, but didn’t get around to uploading it. I’m pretty pleased with it.

© Ben Quant 2023

Poem 138 – The Sprint

A clicking cadence
Of whirring wheels
Flung bidons bounce
Preparing for pace
At last the lead outs
Peel to reveal
The gurning grimace
As riders rush
One final fling
Across the line
Hands held high
In taking the triumph
To banging barriers
And cheering claps
…Or heavy, hang,
In final defeat

This year’s Tour de France was one of the most exciting I’ve watched, gripping from end to end. Watching it has been an annual ritual for most of my life, and as this season’s joins the memories of others, here’s a verse written in celebration of the sprint (although my favourite sprinter, was sadly absent this year).

© Ben Quant 2022
Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/high-angle-view-of-people-on-bicycle-248547/

Poem 78 – Close Encounter

First of all I sense it coming
Growing tension in the air
Building pressure ominous, the
Beast approaches drawing near

Then I hear a snarling note with
Pitch increasing, Doppler lift
Whining of four spinning wheels
Aggressive, through the gears it shifts

Body tensing, past experience
Muscle memory plays its part
Instinctively I know what’s coming
Snapping heels, approaching fast

Swift, it steals manoeuvre room by
Leaping, yapping, at my side
Adrenaline floods through the system
Now its time for flight or fight

Finally it cuts inside, a
Reckless swerve inches away
Pounding heart within my chest, I’m
Left exclaiming, all in vain

News of impending changes brought a cheer in our household. As a cyclist, I have experienced too many occasions where drivers have aggressively overtaken me, passing far too closely and cutting in dangerously, even turning left across my path (please note, I’m not saying all drivers are villains, or cyclists good road users).


© Ben Quant 2022