Maybe it’s the unfamiliar vitamin D coursing through my veins, but I’m feeling rather Zen today. I think this 30 days of biking might be giving me a new perspective on cycling. Usually riding my bike takes two forms: the first is about getting from A to B without having the hassle and environmental cost of driving the car; the second is about offsetting cake intake.
Both of these require cycling with purpose. The A to B version usually involves me trying to get somewhere fairly quickly so a not to be late, but without actually breaking sweat in my work clothes. The cake offset requires effort. Sweating is a desirable outcome, stopping to take photos is an interruption to the sweat generation and is reducing the amount of cake offset being achieved.
However, these last few days I have been on holiday in Northern Ireland, and so getting from A to B was not really necessary, and cake (and ice cream) offset was not really an option on the available borrowed bike. The saddle rocked from side to side and was set about 10cm too low, the tyres were about 20psi too soft, and only half of the fitted 24 gears were actually functional. Despite these unpromising vital statistics, I managed to have a lovely time.
I pootled along the coast road with the smell of salt and sea in the air –
the one thing I wish was different about the South Pennines is that it was a little closer to the sea, but since everything else about it is perfect I suppose I can live without a shoreline.
On the first day I only had time for a short spin as the sausages on the BBQ awaited. On the second day we were so busy visiting beaches watching seals that I forgot about riding until after dark. Dark in the countryside, next to the sea, with no streetlights is very dark. I opted for a quick cycle cross around the garden. Our host questioned my sanity. The next day I was determined not to forget again, so went out straight after breakfast (which is still before breakfast time for most of the population who don’t have such early rising children).
Venturing out on a slightly longer loop, it was idyllic. The hills were gentle (our host said in surprise ‘you went all the way up the hill?’. I said ‘what hill?’) and the gorse was in bloom. Birds tweeted, the sun shone, and I tried to take selfies while riding. I am not so good at this, and only managed a shot of my chin. I did manage a picture of my shadow though.
As I rode, I realised I was really enjoying myself. It didn’t matter that my bike was a bag of spanners (or at least needed the attention of one), or that I wasn’t going anywhere in particular, or that I wasn’t burning many calories. It was just nice to be out in the fresh air, noticing the world around me.
Back in the South Pennines, I decided to continue to embrace the riding for no reason with no particular effort, and headed out up the hill towards Midgley. Wondering what I might see, I was so busy looking around me that I barely noticed the hill as it ramps up to the village* and I would have cycled on had I not bumped into my friend in her garden, who I talked to until I realised it was getting dark and I didn’t have lights.
So, cycling without purpose, just for the sake of it. I recommend it.
*This may not be entirely truthful. It may be quite hard to cycle effortlessly round here. The author accepts no responsibility for any sweat broken while trying to emulate this approach to cycling.