As cyclists we’re constantly exploring our world, taking the road less travelled and discovering the answer to the question, “Where does this go?”. As a result, we come across some pretty weird things from time to time; they might make us laugh, stand slack-jawed in amazement or even pedal away screaming. Here are some of the strangest things that you might have seen while out on a ride…
We’re pretty sure the residents of the pretty village of Bastardo in central Italy are used to tourists taking photos in front of their road signs. The same might be said for Poo in northern Spain, or Horny Bar in Slovakia. Don’t be put off by place names though – one of the most beautiful places to ride a bike is the region of Die in the Rhône-Alpes in southern France.
You don’t even have to venture that far afield to encounter some childishly amusing monikers. The UK has some beauties, ancient place names passed down from more innocent times when ‘willy’ or ‘slag’ hadn’t yet been turned into punch lines for toilet humour. Nob End in Bolton, Upperthong (and its less salubrious neighbour, Netherthong) in Holmfirth and Pant in Shropshire are just a selection of some of our more colourful ones. As the saying goes, you’re never far from a Boggy Bottom in the UK.
There are a few places we recommend you avoid, however. It might be best to leave Hazardville in Connecticut, Satan’s Kingdom in Vermont or Accident in Maryland for the locals.
Us cyclists love nothing more than quiet roads and in order to get to them early alarm calls are not uncommon. Riding out through the suburbs in the Sunday morning gloaming can bring us into contact with some of the more inebriated members of our cities, folks determined to get home way after the buses have stopped running, having failed to convince even the most desperate taxi driver the chips and curry sauce will stay off the seats. With their standard British reserve flushed from their systems, these characters can sometimes offer anything from a comedic barb to a more physical encounter, a human maze of waving arms through which you’re required to weave, only to emerge the other side with the stench of Saturday night and Lynx Africa in your nostrils. Head off into the wilds of the countryside and you might even find yourselves in a less threatening but no less bizarre situation.
Spend a little time cycling in the pro training meccas of Calpe, Mallorca or Tenerife and you’ll more than likely experience groups of terrifyingly slim guys powering past you, all dressed in matching kit. There aren’t many sights that can puncture your conviction that you could have been a contender than that of a pro rider on his phone, effortlessly riding one handed on the climb that you’ve been struggling up for the last 30 minutes.
If you can, should you hang on to the group? Or ask for a photo? Professional riders are by and large a good bunch, the same as you in their love for cycling but with a freakish amount of power at their disposal. So long as you’re not interrupting some painful intervals or particular sessions they’re usually more than happy to pose for a selfie or let you sit in their wheels. Then, when you get home, you can tell your mates how you rode with the pros – for a while…
Spain, in particular, seems to have a penchant for village fêtes, which normally begin mid-afternoon and finish only when the last stragglers have finally dropped many hours later. Arriving into a small town for your mid-morning coffee to discover the entire population staggeringly drunk after 15 straight hours of tinto de verano is a sure-fire way to bring a smile to your face, if not the aforementioned caffeine.
Ride across the Spanish plains or along the Italian coast and you might see some eerie scenes. The economic positivity of the early 2000s sparked a number of massive European Union-funded building projects, with entire cities built only for the 2008 downturn to dissuade anyone from actually moving to them. Ciudad Valdeluz, 60km northeast of Madrid, is one of the more striking examples – a city meant for 30,000 residents, with dual carriageways, bridges, apartments and parks all complete with barely a soul living there. Ride into one of these ghost-projects and the only humanity you might see is a bored security guard, or more likely other cyclists with the same confused look across their face as you.
Should you be able to put thoughts of a zombie apocalypse to the back of your mind though they do offer a good place to hang your hammock for the night.
Picture the scene: a sunny group ride, all of you resplendent in your Sunday best, as you arrive into that pretty village you’ve earmarked as the ideal mid-ride coffee stop. So, when you turn the corner into the town square and find yourself surrounded by black-clad mourners as the hearse arrives, what do you do? Is it less awkward to stand there in mock mourning, thinking that maybe today wasn’t the day for bright orange socks? Or should you silently attempt an exit stage left, hoping that your GPS unit doesn’t do its electronic beep at the crucial moment? Tough one…
Oh Britain, how we love you! Nothing shouts of the pride in our heritage louder than groups of balding men in their fifties prancing around with handkerchiefs, knocking bits of wood together and jangling their bells on a village green. Explore into our bucolic countryside in the summertime and you’re sure to encounter these strange folks. It’s not all bad though – their appearance is often accompanied by a sunny village scene with gallons of tea and delicious cake on offer, so for us cyclists, a Morris dancer should be seen as a friend, a beacon of chocolate-y potential during a long day out in the saddle. Just don’t let them talk you into joining in….
Do you have any oddities to add to our list? Seen anything that tops ours? Drop us a tweet at @Pedalcover.