I love finding nuggets of cycling wisdom in unexpected places.

Neil M. Gunn was an a highly influential Scottish author. Born and bred in the far north of Scotland, his work was heavily influenced by the landscape that surrounded his Dunbeath home.

Caithness is a windswept part of the world, as any member of the Caithness C.C. will surely testify. Judging by his novel¬†Highland River¬†(which was based on the author’s childhood) Gunn clearly knew a thing or two about the habits of wild salmon. The short extract below shows he also knew a thing or two about a cyclist’s relationship with the wind:

And nothing can bring the spirit to breaking point more surely than the wind, which legend shows the northern folk have always feared and hated. For not only does it whirl the seas into tempest and wither the green shoot, but drains sea and land of colour and puts darkness upon them — the shadow of the ancient nameless ones that rode the gale with shriek and howl, or moaned round gable ends at dead of night. Into a head wind the boys would bore, standing on their pedals, straining at their handlebars, their hearts bursting, until they could have given shriek for shriek and wept in mad rage.

There will no doubt be many an occasion this coming winter when I find myself leant over the handlebars, face contorted, vocally, (yet inaudible due to Mother Nature’s howl) cursing the wind.

When that happens my thoughts will turn to this extract, to the coastal roads of Caithness, the teenage Gunn and his pals racing homewards, their hearts bursting, ready to weep in rage.