What makes a ride epic?
Earlier this year I had a gentle ride to Northallerton and back with Ruth, it was sunny and I stopped to take photos of thistles. We had coffee and cake in the sunshine at a hidden little cafe off the high street. It was not an epic ride, it was a refreshing, beautiful, friendly, chatty, relaxing, invigorating, pootle with a good friend.
I've just come back from an identical ride in almost no sense of the word. I took the same route there and back, but alone and in the cold and fog. I have no photos to illustrate this ride report, it was quite simply the most dreary and isolating experience. Every minute of the ride was fully experienced, there was nothing to distract me from:
- the cyclical motion of my legs
- the shuffling back and forth in the saddle to keep comfortable
- the pressure on my wrists and moving around the bars to ease this
- the cold breeze on my cheeks
It took 1 hour and 15 minutes to ride to Northallerton and apart from the variation in the colours of the hedgerows there was nothing else to see. In the first 10 minutes of the ride I was cold and wondering whether to turn round and go home. In the next 10 minutes I was still cold. I thought about turning round and going home. After 25 minutes had passed, and there was nothing really to see, and because I was cold, I thought about turning round and going home. This was turning into a ride of epic proportions. What makes an epic ride? I think it is carrying on to finish the goal you set yourself in the face of adversity.
A generic photo of fog. Boring.
I saw at least ten other riders out today, all going in the opposite direction to me... they were heading home. Perhaps there was hot coffee at my home available for all these riders. I wondered if they had enjoyed the best of the sunshine already, while I was at church this morning. I wondered if they thought I was going home. I wondered a lot of things, there was nothing else to do but wonder about things and cycle on.
I passed over the railway tracks outside Brompton and made sure I did it carefully as I really didn't want to end up on my backside in the cold wet leaves by the side of the road. I was taking things cautiously today.
In Northallerton I locked the bike up outside a coffee shop and went in for espresso. There was a long queue of shoppers pausing in their pre-Christmas consumerism for hot chocolate covered in whipped cream, sprinkled with chocolate powder and draped in marshmallows. It was difficult to see how they might have burned the calories to justify these extravagantly indulgent calorie-fest drinks. Allegedly a mere 580 calories per drink!
I enjoyed the double espresso and the moment of "not cycling in the fog", but I found the noise and bustle of the coffee shop a bit nerve jangling after the cold and isolation of the empty foggy roads. So back out for the return trip.
Stopping for coffee is the best way to make sure you are properly cold when you set off cycling again. The fog felt freezing on my face. I considered calling home and getting rescued. I never consider this. Why was I considering this? I was cold. There was nothing to see.
A photograph of dramatic fog (which I didn't take).
Wait! What's that in the field? A herd of deer all look up as I cycle past. I stop to look at them in more detail and they start to edge away from me. There must have been a hundred of them - it was a farm I'd stopped by. But it was nice to see so many deer in one place and they were something interesting to look at. I must have been something interesting too - they all watched me cautiously until I cycled off.
Back I came, retracing my route. I warmed up the further I cycled, but I still couldn't make out anything beyond the hedgerows.
By the time I reached home I'd been out for 2hrs and 30mins and covered 65km. But it was lonely. I had wanted to give up several times. This was an epic ride. Sitting at home in the warmth and with a decent cup of coffee, talking to Carol about the ride I realise that epic is a state of mind. And the weather can make such a huge contribution to your experience and to your mind.
2012 has been a tough year for cycling in the northeast UK. The weather has been against us most of the time. Now Winter is upon us and we'll all need to wrap up warm when we go out - and we need to expect to cycle less distance but keep those legs turning so that when Spring comes it isn't such a shock to the system.
Labels: church, Cycling, cycling journeys, epic, gentle, Training