Chain reaction as Vinny Fitzpatrick goes pedal power

After a particularly indulgent festive period Vinny gets back on his bike to shed some pounds


For a one-hour cycle on Sunday morning, it was taking Vinny Fitzpatrick what seemed like two hours to get ready.

Skull cap. Check. Helmet. Check. Under armour. Check. Padded shorts. Check. Fingerless-gloves. Check. Cycling tunic. Check. Footwear. Check.

Sunglasses, water, choccie bar, mobile phone – check, check, check, check. Cheque for Vernon Velo. Check.

“Going swimming is a lot less complicated – just togs and a towel,” he thought to himself as he waddled to the bike shed in Mount Prospect Avenue to saddle up on his silver steed.

A few minutes later, Vinny was wheeling into the car park outside Foley’s pub, preparing to take the road less travelled.

This rare episode of exercise followed a particularly indulgent festive period, even by Vinny’s carbo-loading standards.

A recent peek at the scales confirmed his suspicions – at 16 stone, one ounce, he was officially tubby.

Aware that posters for Vernon Velo had been plastered all over pubs and shops in Clontarf since the turn of the year, Vinny had bitten the bullet, rather than a large baguette.

“Shed pounds with pedal power” screamed the adverts. “Vernon Velo meets every Sunday outside Foley’s at 11am. Annual sub €50. Ask for Herve.”

Herve was easy to find, for he propped up the bar in Foley’s every Friday evening, skulling bacardi and talking to the nines in broken French to anyone who’d listen.

He hailed from Liege, was single, and claimed to have ridden the Tour of Flanders as an amateur in the early 80s.

Such was his Belgian waffle that when jarred, Herve gave the impression he’d have given Eddy Merckx a run for his money. In reality, he wouldn’t have lasted 24 hours on the Rás.

Pink cycling tunic
Lean and lanky, sporting a bright pink cycling tunic, Herve welcomed Vinny like a lost soul. “Vinny, mon ami, you can be ze Sean Kelly of our group, no? You have ze power in ze little fat legs.”

Vinny let Herve have his funny half-hour, handed him his membership fee and gave his bike one last, er, check.

The brakes were fine, the gears were ticking over and his reflectors were working but there was a squeaky sound in the chain ring which was a worry. “Best to get the old girl serviced,” he thought as Herve called the group to mount up.

There were about a dozen easy riders in the Vernon Velo peloton, all of them male, aged 30 and upwards.

Of Vinny’s drinking crew, Brennie and Two-Mile Borris were saddled up while he spied Dial-A-Smile, the slippery Foley’s barman, behind reflector sunglasses.

The trip was a gentle loosener, out along the coast road to Sutton Cross and then back via the Bull Island, which, Herve warned, involved some off road pedalling through the linksland.

It was a crisp, chill, morning and Vinny was soon puffing hard, which was needed. After turning at the Sutton tombolo, he tucked in at the rear of the group for the homeward trundle, grateful for the protection.

By now the wind was in their faces and by the time they reached the entrance to the Interpretative Centre on Bull Island – sadly all boarded up – Herve called for a time-out, much to Vinny’s relief.

Unglued himself
“Team Sky are safe,” he gasped as he unglued himself from his saddle and reached hungrily for the bar of Twix in his back pocket, chiding himself for not packing a second.

The final part of the spin was to come, traversing the dunes and Vinny needed to regroup. He had two concerns; his fleshy trotters and his bike, which was creaking with every push of the pedals.

He wheeled a little way off from the Vernon Velo crew and began poking forlornly at the mass of springs, sprockets and chains when he heard a husky voice at his shoulder. “You look like you need the AA.”

He glanced up. The interloper was a fellow cyclist, female as best he could tell under reflector shades and shell helmet.

Vinny straightened up, then winced, as he felt something ping in his lower back. “This bike is a bit like me, creaking at the hinges, I’m afraid,” he said cheerily – wearing sunglasses always gave him a dash of bravado.

“We’re about to head into the dunes and I’m concerned something might go amiss.”

The new arrival slipped a long leg athletically off her bike, a shiny top of the range racer, which she leaned against a sandy bank. “Here, let’s have a look. You can’t be too careful.”

Flicking off gloves, her long fingers quickly got to work on Vinny’s chain. “You’ve got a loose ring and every time you change gear, it weakens. It’ll hold for a while but I’d get it seen to as soon as possible.”

Vinny held out a hand in appreciation. “Thanks for the roadside assistance,” he grinned. “I’m Vinny, I’m with Vernon Velo. That’s us over there,” he said, nodding at Herve who was beckoning him over and pointing at his watch.

“Pleased to meet you, Vinny. I’m Pamela, one of the Bailey Bikers from Howth. Here come the rest of our stragglers up the causeway now.”

With that, Pamela took off her sunglasses to reveal a pair of Malteser-brown eyes, which knocked Vinny for six. “We do this run every Sunday, same time. Might see you next week, Vinny,” smiled Pamela as she gracefully mounted her bike.

As Vinny rolled over towards Herve, his heart thumping slightly, he heard Pamela call out his name and he half-turned.

She was downwind of him, wearing a Colgate-smile. “Make sure you get the bike fixed, Vinny,” she said aloud. “You don’t want to risk having an accident . . . end up in hospital”

Then, the wind gusted and Vinny couldn’t quite catch the last train of Pamela’s thoughts. She said something about a big election – Vinny couldn’t think what she meant.

He nudged his bike into the marram grass and sandy trails of Bull Island, a mystified look on his face.

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