With regards to the debilitating condition known as the Cycle Tourist Tantrum (CTT), there are many potential risk factors one must keep in mind. Many factors, when identified, may offer a warning to those in the surrounding area and give them the opportunity to mitigate the situation. Some of the more common triggers are hunger, disorientation, flat tires, bikes falling over, a missing sock, an itchy “mozzie” (mosquito) bite, someone eating the last bean from lunch, or desperately trying to find your headlamp in the dark recesses of a pannier. Ultimately, however, there are no hard and fast rules, and one must be prepared for an attack at any moment, remaining always vigilant.
If a CTT is diagnosed in a cycling companion, then it is important that one initially ensures the area is safe and everyone is out of harm’s way.
The best response is often laughter.
It’s not always easy, and at times you may indeed exacerbate the situation, so this is a high-risk strategy. Please attempt this only if you are an experienced laugher — otherwise it may be best to hide behind a large rock and wait for the tantrum to run its course.
Two recent case studies of Cycle Tourist Tantrum presented on the same day, deep in the mountainous western region of Sichuan Province, China.
After a brilliant night of camping and a delightful breakfast, the party was in great spirits. Having just packed, both were attempting to relocate their bikes onto the road. This involved pushing up a steep gravel bank and over a trench — serious technical undertakings for this early in the morning.
7:51 am: All was proceeding well, with both members making considerable progress up the bank. D.L. Henley was preparing for a final push to the apex of the gravel, using the “hold bike with brakes, reposition feet, push bike slightly further up, reapply brakes, and repeat” method. M.R. Yeoman had also made considerable progress using the less conventional “scramble frantically with bike unbalanced and below the body, shove/drag the unbalanced loaded bike as far as possible in one go without brakes, and attempt to run up the bank whilst flinging stones everywhere as feet slip on gravel bank” method.
7:52 am: D.L. Henley, believing he had a superior method, suggested that M.R. Yeoman should apply her brakes and then copy his (clearly superb!) approach. M.R. Yeoman climbed over her teetering unbalanced bike and attempted the new strategy. Fundamental errors were made and adoption of the new method resulted in further slipping rather than progress.
7:53 am: Tantrum was now very likely. D.L. Henley, sensing the risk factors and clearly perplexed as to why his brilliant theory had not been met with success and gratitude, offered some more useful advice.
Henley: “Use your brakes.”
Yeoman: “I am!” (as bike rolls backwards)
Henley: “How can you be using your brakes IF THE WHEELS ARE ROLLING BACKWARDS!?!?”
Yeoman: “ARRRRRGGH!!! How the hell am I going to make it over the Karakorum Highway IF I CAN’T GET UP A STUPID GRAVEL BANK!!!!!??”
CCT threshold was close.
7:54 am: Disaster struck! M.R. Yeoman, exhibiting numerous signs of imminent implosion, proceeded with her final and fateful attempt. Momentum shifted and both bike and rider cascaded down the bank (with no sign of engaged brakes, according to eyewitness D.L. Henley). The bike buckled and kicked, wrenching M.R. Yeoman off her feet and bringing her crashing down over the now up-ended bike.
Yeoman: “AHHRSDFSDFRRRR!!!!!!!” (several fist pumps and foot stomps)
Henley: “Why didn’t you use your brakes?”
Yeoman: “I DID USE MY BRAKES!” (whilst throwing panniers)
Henley: “Well you clearly didn’t or you wouldn’t have rolled backwards.”
Yeoman: “Why don’t you be a decent partner and COME HELP!!”
Henley: “BECAUSE I’M HOLDING MY BRAKES!”
Action taken by party:
7:54:30 am: In a rare case of self-medication, both members of the party burst into laughter simultaneously! Within minutes they were giggling at the re-enactments of each other’s actions during the CTT. This is a best-case outcome.
4:00 pm: The afternoon sun was high and hot, and the party had enjoyed a spectacular 70-kilometer descent down a narrow valley. However, a classic risk factor was at large — D.L. Henley’s stomach was gurgling as they tackled the next climb.
In the past, the subject had experienced partial attacks of CTT on several occasions. In this particular case, as the power seeped from his legs, D.L. Henley realised there was a problem. He notified M.R. Yeoman that they should stop for food.
The subject strayed from a course that may well have staved off disaster. Nearing the crest of a hill to their designated lunch spot, D.L. Henley made the ill-fated request that M.R. Yeoman hold his bike while he take a photo of the river below. M.R. Yeoman, herself exhausted and pushing hard for the top (and lunch), declined and suggested D.L. Henley lean his bike against a power pole.
4:04 pm: D.L. Henley, indignant at the inconvenience this might cause him, began to huff and, as he awkwardly attempted to lean his bike, was observed slapping his saddle in frustration. (Mental age ~12.)
4:07 pm: After a bike-balance battle and a sub-standard photo, the subject arrived at the lunch spot at the apex of the hill. During the final effort, he self-diagnosed the potential for imminent CTT. Now with urgency, he searched for a spot to lean his bike, attempting to “piggy-back” and balance against M.R. Yeoman’s. He succeeded only in knocking it over.
Yeoman: “Don’t worry. Let’s just use our new trick and lean them against one another.”
Henley: “I’m really sorry I’m being a @#$%! I just need some food.”
4:08 pm: The thought of imminent food sent the subject’s mind into overdrive, causing extensive grunting and huffing. (Mental age ~6.) The bike-leaning procedure took longer than our subject would have liked, and increased rapidity of huffing was observed. Finally successful, it appeared as if a CTT would be avoided.
4:08:30 pm: Inexplicably, as the subject approached the lunch spot, his photo instinct engaged and for the second time in five minutes he lost focus. Fearing a change in light, he surged for the camera. Meanwhile his stomach continued to gurgle. (Mental age ~ 4.)
Henley: “AHHH! This STUPID camera! Why won’t it expose properly?!”
Yeoman: “Don’t worry about it, come and have some food.”
Henley: “I’m sorry I’m just being a @#$%! I just need some food — it’s not actually the camera, it’s the operator!!!”
Henley: “This DAMN CAMERA! The sun’s going to go in now!”
4:10 pm: Disaster! (Mental age ~2.) As D.L. Henley attempted to rectify an awful run of photography, the delicately balanced bikes faltered. The sound of crunching metal and squealing panniers echoed through the valley as the bikes crashed in a heap.
Henley: “NOOOO! #$@#$@! $#$%!”
Yeoman: “Oh for goodness sake, Henley. Shut up! Sit down and eat, the bikes will be okay.”
Henley: “Okay? There’s only so many times our BIKES CAN FALL OVER BEFORE SOMETHING BREAKS! I just need some food! STUPID BIKES!!! STUPID CAMERA!!”
The subject passed the threshold during this time, complete with arm flapping and various indistinguishable vocal disturbances.
Action taken by party: M.R. Yeoman — acting with great efficiency and at considerable peril — was able to woo the subject towards the food source. D.L. Henley staggered forward through the fog of the CTT to the allocated lunch area. Food was applied to his mouth, and within one minute the CTT had abated.
At the end of the day, Cycle Tourist Tantrums come and go, and in some cases a CTT is even a seasonal phenomenon rather than a constant.
They may or may not be part of your cycle-touring experience and style. But if you do suffer an attack, rest assured that you’re not alone.
This story originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.