Taught a lesson by an octogenarian tortoise on wheels

Sheona Small
Sheona Small

Cycling to work earlier this week brought to mind many things, such as the parable of the tortoise and the hare and the proverb pride comes before a fall.

It was a glorious day, perfect for ambling, but I’d cut things fine and needed to get on. Up ahead in the cycle lane is an older man just poodling along on an old bike. Traffic is busy so I sit on his tail waiting for a break to overtake, which comes where I really don’t want it - at the bottom of a hill.

I slow to his pace to chat and feel a shift in my mood, from stressed to relaxed

Hills are my nemesis but needs must and I get out the saddle for a bit of a boost to get by. “Morning, lass,” he says, endearing him to me immediately, it having been many a year since I could be called a lass, “you go for it.”

Pride means I have to ‘go for it’ but I’m soon huffing and puffing like an old cart horse and when I reach the top, my legs are trembling and the sweat is trickling down my face and dripping from my chin.

As I wait to turn, I am aware of the sound of slow-turning tyres approaching behind me. “Good pace you had going there, well done,” he says, coming to a stop beside me, in full control of his breathing and without a bead of sweat on his brow. I am suitably humbled.

We’re going the same way and I realise it would be pointless and, considering what had just happened, make me look a prat to sprint off again.

I slow to his pace to chat and feel a shift in my mood, from stressed to relaxed.

Turns out he’s in his 80s and has done his share of cycling adventures back in the day.

There’s an analogy in there somewhere about taking time in our busy lives to slow down and shoot the breeze but as the sweat on my face dried to a salty crust, I made a silent vow to never again underestimate an octogenarian tortoise on two wheels.