Getting Past the Front Door.

I only ever think, ‘there is no way.’ 

In the dark, in that first pre-dawn moment, it’s the first thing I can articulate. But it doesn’t come from nowhere, it’s an answer; an instant riposte to a question that to me seems so ancient that it doesn’t even have to be formed. It is the same question I have asked myself every day for the last twenty years, a question that is so much a part of my psyche that by virtue of just opening my eyes it has already been posed. 

Am I going to go cycling today? 

And the answer, once the days have drawn short and the leaves have been turned to mush, by the layer of cold water that sits unmoving and unmoved on the surface of the roads and trails for the next three months, is always, without fail, the same. 

‘There is no way.’

There is no way that I am getting out of this bed, breaking the spell of sleep or the cocoon of warmth that my body has enveloped itself in.  There is no way that I am leaving this comfort now, this the last place I’ll be for eighteen or so hours where no one can reach me or make demands of me, and where the world is yet to begin. 

I sleep with the window open, and I know the weather. I am used to its sounds and its patterns. I can hear the water running from gutters, the tree branches swaying and the sound of the falling rain landing on the brickwork by the window. 

There are no exceptions in winter, the clouds will cloud and so on. Even at it’s best winter is moist and dark in the only moments that I have to ride. I hate putting on overshoes, and I hate the damage that all that filth does to my bike. I hate gilets, and having too much stuff in my back pockets. 

‘There is no way.’ 

I don’t have to be out in it these days either. I ride my bike purely for fun, and to keep myself in respectable enough shape that when the opportunity to go and ride a hundred miles comes up, or the chance to take part in a mountain bike race in the local woods presents itself, I can do it. I don’t need to be out there, no one will know, least of all care. The nagging senses of guilt, fear and competitiveness that drove me out the door for so long have faded to the point of (almost) being extinguished. There are no longer any rivals to worry about, or races to prepare for. I simply don’t have to do it.  

From where I lay I think of myself out in that weather: water in my shoes, wind burning my cheeks, the dark, the layers of clothing that I’ll need to wear to go out in it that add up to make that weight of winter. 

But even to get the outside world from where I am seems impossible. From the bed to my clothes - layers of kit to get into, then from the bedroom to the kitchen – water and espresso to drink, my bike to take out and get out of the front door. Each step a potential stumbling block, my Stations of the Cross.

‘There is no way.’ 

 And then something weird happens. Everyday – almost without fail, before I’ve even had time to know what I am doing, I find myself riding down the street rolling away from my house. 

The truth is, even I don’t believe it when I tell myself that there is no way, because as soon as I’ve thought it, it is already too late. I know that my body will do it anyway, even if my mind tries to resist – and the more that my mind tries to resist, the faster my body takes me out of the door. 

You see while I was thinking about how much I don’t like the winter weather, my legs were putting on shorts and my arms were putting a base layer over my head. And even while I was thinking about how much I hate overshoes, my body was in the bike room taking my bike out, and then when I was firmly deciding that I would stay in bed after all I was already walking out the front door. 

I find that worrying about what it is like outside is the worst way to never get anything done, ever. So I tell my mind not to worry, because I’m not going to go out, but I rely on my body to do the right thing and get out there anyway. 

And I never get annoyed with myself for leaving the house, because I know that once you are out, it really isn’t ever that bad, it really is just a matter of getting past the front door.


Tom Southam

Continue reading


For a British rider, racing the Tour of Britain is always great. There is a familiarity, an ease almost, you get when racing at home that you just can’t find anywhere else, no matter how well, or how far you go to adopt another country as your homeland.

Growing up in the UK as a racing cyclist, until very recently, meant that from an early age all eyes had to be focused on other countries. The races here meant nothing. Europe was where the teams were, it was where the riders were, and it was where the races all happened. Your whole concept of racing bikes was based on a European dream. It might well have been a dream that you loved, but it is one that you could never know as well as the people who really truly belonged there.

The real difference was that the European guys don’t start by seeing the roads of the Tour of Flanders or the Tour of Lombardy as part of a race; they start by seeing them as a route to school, or the best way to a friend’s house. Those races, the roads and the landscape are simply part of those riders.


For the British rider racing abroad, those places couldn’t exist without cycling; you’d arrive on a foreign shore and see the world through the eyes of a bike rider and you can only ever understand so much when you only have one angle to look from.

It gives the home riders, the Europeans who own the rights to all the really big races, an advantage that no amount of wind tunnels can replicate, and no amount of GPS files can account for. It allows them to understand the area they are racing in so intrinsically that they always have the upper hand.

The same is true for the British riders when the pro peloton comes to them. The tables are turned at the Tour of Britain, and it makes for one occasion in the year when you really feel at home, and you start to see things the way the Italians do at the Giro, or the French do at the Tour.

It’s not just where the road is going to go, or when climbs might arrive. It is knowing that the weather is about to change, or that there will be parked cars in the next town. It is about knowing how heavy the road surface in the country is, and how hard you can hit it. It is about understanding Dartmoor and how tight a squeeze it’ll be through the lanes of Devon or Somerset. It’s about knowing where the topof Haytor is…


You understand your roads like no one else because you’ve lived on them. Every road sign, every mile marker, and each painted line – all markings that make clear and perfect sense.

And yet it goes further still, a bike race isn’t just about the four hours of the day you spend racing from one line to the next. It also includes the logistics of getting from one place to another, eating dinner, finding your way around another hotel, and getting some rest.

Knowing where you are, knowing that you don’t have to think twice when you check in, or go to ask how the Wi-Fi works, nor not having to worry about the roaming charges on your mobile phone, makes the whole thing so much easier.

There are the fans too. The fans here are your friends, people you know and who know you. Having a few people from your club come to the start to wish you luck is a thousand times better than the experience of having a demanding autograph hunter thrust six pictures of you in your face and saying “SIGN!”

I used to think that being a British rider at the Tour of Britain was like having the party at your house instead of going to a party at friends: You could enjoy the plaudits for being the host. But it’s not; it is better than that, because when the party is at your place you always have that worry that someone is defacing a painting, or defecating in the garden.

There is none of that stress when the Tour comes to your country. There is no worry that the place will get trashed, because fortunately you know that someone else has it all in hand, and you can just enjoy the rare privilege of racing at home.



Tom Southam

Continue reading
Recent posts
Getting Past the Front Door.