My brother Freek is a fanatical amateur racing cyclist. Our father, admittedly, is not, but in the grip of a brief but overwhelming fifty-something urge to stay young he too bought himself a racing bike. His enjoyment of it was short-lived. After two falls - cycling shoes clip onto the pedals but my father forgot that when he had to get off - the bike now stands idle at home.
Our bike rides were a source of mutual irritation until I suddenly stumbled on a secret: by cycling very close behind my brother I went faster. Since then I have been fanatical too. We easily reached speeds of 38 kilometres an hour and when we have the confidence we can overtake other amateur cyclists. It is fantastic, except that I haven't caught a glimpse of the landscape since I've been doing this. The only thing I see is my brother's backside, embellished by an advert for the Rabobank.
It's deadly dangerous though. I ride so close behind him that I often narrowly miss his back wheel. I do not even see the red-and-white striped posts on the cycle path until the last minute, but with a big swerve I manage to avoid a bloodbath. Once I missed a bend and came to a halt in the middle of a pine forest. Fortunately this mishap was only noticed by a woodpecker that sounded a shrill alarm, and a minute later I could just ride on.
But I couldn't care less. All that matters is the cycling. I am a student of forest and nature management, but once I'm in the saddle the social value of the forest is reduced to its function as windbreak, an advantage that is cancelled out completely by all those irritating tree roots under the cycle path. Over the past weeks, cycling certainly became the most important thing in my life, but anyone who imagines I will now be cycling into Wageningen from Rhenen has got that wrong. Because my regular bike is still in the shed with two punctures. Needless to say, I didn't have time for that, with all that cycling to do.