Some 40 odd years ago as I had reached the required age limit (40 years old) I started to take an interest in the V.T.T.A (Veterans Time Trial Association). This is a great organisation that means that as your physical abilities decline you can still take part in the mystic art of time trialling and manage on occasions pick up the odd prize or medal.
I was very fortunate that at the time I qualified, there was an extremely strong Kent V.T.T.A. scene and in addition to the full season of racing the social side was very active, with up to 400 hundred members and friends sitting down to the annual Lunch and Prize Giving. This last mentioned event was a rumbustious affair that was organised with great gusto and enthusiasm by the then Social Sectary Pat Hill who looked to make each luncheon memorable.
As you can imagine with an age spectrum ranging up to their late eighties the diners needed quite vigorous entertaining just to keep some of them awake after they had consumed their pre-lunch halves of shandy. Because of this Pat was very keen that in addition to the official Speakers there should be much Cross Toasting with loads of informal interruptions during the course of the meal.
Seizing the opportunity and without too much thought I decided that I would give a lecture on how cycling improved spacial awareness and short memory retention.
Having banged on the table to get their attention I plunged into my talk by saying that I could prove how cycling had many benefits that had not yet been fully explored and that I would give everyone present the chance to take part in a great experiment. I said that all the equipment needed for the “experiment” was on the dining tables at which they were seated, i.e. a lighted candles and a small plates. Then I asked them to watch what I did very closely while I explained exactly what I was doing and that after my demonstration I would ask them all to repeat what they had seen.
I took the plate in my left hand and held it above the candle and turned it three times to the left and then four times to the right(all the time giving a running commentary so those with bad eyesight would not be at a disadvantage). Having moved the plate away from the candle I shut my eyes and then tapped underneath the plate with the nail of my right index finger and continued to rub the underside of the plate in the same way that it had been moved above the candle - “three times to the left and then four times to the right” I did of course omit to mention that no part of my finger other than the tip of the nail actually touched the plate.
The next part of the test was that with eyes closed I touched the lobe of my left ear and run the finger across my face under my nose and touch the lobe of my right ear. Still keeping eyes closed I located my hairline in the middle of my forehead and then ran my finger down my nose to find the bottom of my chin. If they could all do exactly as I had done this would prove the fact that as cyclist they did in fact have enhanced spacial awareness along with brilliant short term memory.
I thought that I would probably catch a few out with this rather obvious trick but I was underestimating the competitiveness of this group and I am very proud of the fact that the lunch was held up for some time whilst queues formed at the washbasins in the Loo’s to wash the cross of soot from their faces.
On reflection I think I would have been more honest if I had told them that they had just taken part in an experiment to prove the level of gullibility of the ageing cycling community but there again it was probably better to quit before anyone’s sense of humour became over stretched.