Why I really ride a bike

After the high of Sunday, the week took a turn for the worse. Unusually, it wasn’t my fault – the reality of summers end dawned on the family as September approached, the difficulties of life began to sink in. A new job for my Mother, the beginning of college for my younger Brother and a new University course for me. Off topic – you might think, hang on.

It was during an especially long form filling session that my patience finally cracked. I slammed the computer shut, strongly wishing to never open it up again and subject myself to the dozen or so tabs I had been forced to open. It was stunning weather, surely a day to be savoured before the inevitable turning of the weather. I hadn’t originally intended it, but it was with a feeling of great satisfaction that I set off for a long ride.

These days going out for a ride typically involves some kind of structured training, intervals and the like. However, today I simply couldn’t face it – off with the power meter and away with the garmin (that is to say I wasn’t looking at it – couldn’t quite bring myself to have nothing to show for my efforts on Strava). Rather than opting for my race machine, I went for my trusty Specialized – a bike that, if it could speak, would have many tales of mud, crashes, punctures, rain and even in one case a freak snowstorm. Most of my kit was packed for the upcoming Alps trip, I was only left with my 4-year old shorts and a jersey at least one size too large, incidentally the first piece of cycling kit I can remember buying.

The route was an old favourite, one which have many fond memories of – the first time I rode over 100 kilometres (aged 16), and the first time I averaged over 16 mph. Some are not quite so fond – in january last year, having been overenthusiastic and forgotten to eat, I suffered what cyclists refer to as ‘the bonk’ whilst riding this particular course. I could probably ride it with my eyes shut and the handlebars removed.

Setting off from East Coker, turning left to pass the local reservoir on the way to a neighbouring village, Halstock. I first rode this short section on a Mountain Bike aged 11, having been forced to go out for a ride with my Father. Just past the village shop, theres a sharp left turn which leads to a short, steep climb – the imaginatively named Halstock Hill, it formed a big part of my introduction to suffering – during my first summer on the bike, I was somewhat larger then and simply getting to the top was a major challenge.

A right turn at the top, takes you along an exposed, winding country road. Right past the farm where our Horses used to be kept (pre-cycling I was involved in equestrian sports). Keep going, and you end up having to cross a dual carriageway in order to continue. This I did, having waited the inevitable ten minutes for the midday traffic to clear. Up another steep hill, and I soon found myself riding through the village of Yetminster. This was where the family lived during my early childhood, the highlight of my week in those days was cycling up to my Grandparents house for Sunday lunch.

Ok, that’s enough of the nostalgia – you probably get the picture, its a nice route passing through places of personal significance. Today, it truly reminded me of why I became hooked on cycling in the first place. Without ‘training’ to worry about I could simply concentrate on the riding, plain and simple.

There is nothing quite like it, the wind in your hair, the sun on your back and the sensation of speed under your own power. Riding a bike gives a taste of freedom unlike anything else I have experienced. Being able to forget about responsibilities and deadlines, no calls to take and no emails to sift through. For the first time in what felt like weeks, I had time to pause and think. Just the occasional passing car for company, the sounds of nature providing the backing track and the steady, dependable rhythm of my legs all made for a nice change having just emerged from a chaotic family household. The gears were out of adjustment, the saddle uncomfortable and the brakes a tad spongy but today it just didn’t matter.

Looking back at that ride – in terms of training it was pure junk. I rode at a very steady pace, the route included no intervals or even especially challenging hills and at no point was there anything resembling a headwind (I might have just been going too slowly to notice of course). It won’t have made me any fitter, or helped me win races – its done something much more important, kept me sane.

Its now that I begin to understand what makes this sport so unique among others. The simple joy of riding a bike is something we can all experience in equal measure – from occasional charity rider right the way through to grand tour winner. I am reminded of the importance of keeping this joy alive – structured training is all well and good but from time to time its good to take a step back and simply enjoy the experience.

Chaos, has of course, since returned with a vengeance. My suitcase is only half full, most of my University forms aren’t finished, the dishwasher needs emptying and the cat is giving me a spiteful look, reminding me of the need to provide him with some evening ham. All I can do is thank heaven that I have a means of escape and wonder how on earth non-cyclists can cope with life in general.

With that I’ll leave it.

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2 thoughts on “Why I really ride a bike

    1. Glad you like it – ultimate aim is to inform and hopefully enthuse people about racing so good to hears it’s having the desired affect. Anyone with questions on starting racing – send them my way! I’ll give your blog a read, looks interesting.

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