Falling in love again

It’s been over four months since I went for a bike ride. Since we got back from our tour around Britain neither of us have had much interest in cycling. It felt like we were all pedalled out and the thought of pumping up the tyres and getting back in the saddle just didn’t appeal. Until today that is.  I’m not sure whether it was the signs of spring all around us or the sight of so many people enjoying a ride in the sunshine yesterday but all of a sudden we both felt as if it was time to get back on the bikes.

We didn’t go very far but it was a very special ride because it has resulted in me falling in love again.

There is no doubt that after a break of this length the bike always feels uncomfortable. The reach to the bars is too long, the saddle is too hard and I feel like the whole bike is too big. It just doesn’t feel right. I know from past experience that it will take several rides of increasing distance before that old oneness with the machine comes back and we become a team again. Before muscle and metal meld into a single entity once more. It’s nothing to worry about, just odd. I suppose we are both just a bit rusty.

My trusty steed at Land's End last year.

My trusty steed at Land’s End last year.

Contrast this with the amazing feeling that I get just one or two miles into the ride. Despite the awkwardness, I am struck all over again by the efficiency of this marvellous machine. If you have even a small amount of fitness then it takes no effort at all to propel both rider and bike along at an amazing speed. For the same effort as walking at a modest pace a bike will take you many, many times further in any given time-span. It is like a magic trick.

This sense of magic comes over me as if I am riding the bike for the very first time. As if the bike itself is a completely new invention and it fills me full of joy every time it happens. I am convinced that this mechanical advantage is partly responsible for the sense of freedom that every child gets when they first learn to ride a bike. They might not consider the physics of it, but suddenly they are moving faster under their own steam than they have ever done before in their lives. One minute dad is hanging onto the saddle to keep them upright and then the next moment he is history. He is completely unable to keep up with the child who up until this moment has always been just a stride or two away. Always under his control. Not any longer. The bike gives a child a freedom of such scope that they may never experience anything quite like it again. Many of us will spend a lifetime trying to recreate that feeling but it can never be available with such intensity again. The pure joy it brings is dependent on its very transience. It simply can’t be had twice.

I think what I felt today, just like I do whenever I get back on the bike after a break, is a faint but very tangible connection with that special moment from my childhood. That unadulterated joy that comes from being able to travel so easily, so simply and so independently. I think it’s this simple childish pleasure that is at the core of cycling and especially cycle touring. It gives me a sense of freedom that nothing else manages to do. It’s magic. Like being a child again.

Perhaps it is time to get the maps out of their boxes. Time to start dreaming once more.

Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

Weekend breaks

Who cares what day it is

Or more precisely a complete break from weekends is what I’m looking forward to. The more I think about it and the more I realise just how obsessed with weekends our society is. How often between Christmas Eve and the January 2nd did you hear someone say, “I don’t know what day it is”. All because weekends are irrelevant during that holiday period. That’s when you become aware of what an important anchor they are in our routine lives. Even those lucky retired friends still can’t get away from weekends. They may not know their Mondays from their Wednesdays but the weekend still brings them back to the real world once a week.

On our honeymoon we stayed in a guest house in Pembrokeshire run by a couple from the east end of London that had ‘run away’ and opted for an altogether more chilled life running a campsite and accommodation. There was a sign above the bar that read: Opening Hours, if James is awake the bar is open. If James is in bed the bar is closed. If that didn’t sum up their attitude to life, when we came to settle our bill I asked James if he knew the date (I was writing a cheque, remember them?). His reply was priceless and I’ll never forget it: “I’ve no idea”, he said, “I’ll have a stab a Tuesday but I could be wrong”. Now that’s what I call living the good life.

Don’t get me wrong, I love weekends as much as anybody but I am really looking forward to not needing them for six months. They won’t serve any purpose and I suspect that it won’t be long before we will be like James, oblivious to both the date and the time of the week. Bring it on. You see for me this represents a big part of what this trip is about. It’s about the differences between our live as they are now and our lives as they will be on the road. The greater the differences and the more significant the adventure. As I thought about it I jotted down some of the things that I am most looking forward to:

  • No Mondays or Fridays
  • No schedules at all
  • No work, apart from riding the bike
  • Nobody other than us influencing our decisions
  • No ironing
  • No television
  • No idea what tomorrow will bring

Vive la difference!