Sunday, 19 April 2015

Cycling to work....

As the days grow lighter and the weather brightens I have made the effort to cycle to work on a couple of days over the past week. It seems to me the ideal way to save money on fuel and also to get in some much needed miles, our challenges for the year are creeping ever closer and my bike fitness has never been worse!

My route to Leicester City Centre is a mixture of quiet country roads, cycle paths and trails and busy main roads. Like any major city the traffic is heavy, sometimes my journey in the car will take 90 minutes, in the main though I go early and avoid most of the congestion, downside is that I'm at work an hour before I should be - but rather that than sit in a traffic jam. The cycling route is 15 miles door to door, or 17 miles if I avoid one of the many severe hills. The logistics need thorough planning. I have to take in work clothes in the car, washing kit and shoes etc. My plan is to cycle in two days per week initially so I need a change of shirts/socks/pants - all of this is duly stored in the corner of my office and I'm all set to give it a try.

I'm up at 5.15am, dressed and ready to leave by 5.50, unlocking the garage and getting the bike ready, a squirt of oil and I'm off. It's 6.00am - just getting light, to be on the safe side I click on my lights but I'll only need them for 10 minutes or so. There's a swooping descent not far from home and I register 29mph as I career towards the bottom, unfortunately the rise up on the other side is just as dramatic and my speed drops to 6mph. It's a shock to the system at this time in the morning. The roads are quiet, maybe one or two cars pass but nothing more. I pass through the outskirts of Bagworth heading for Thornton, another death defying descent followed by a steep slog into the village. I turn left and pass alongside the reservoir, the water is calm and shines like molten steel as the early morning light reflects off the surface. There's another steep rise now, really challenging, I need all my gears as I crawl toward the top, then its across the road and onto the first cycle track heading to Ratby. This will be beautiful in a week or two, a narrow, smooth surfaced path winding through woodland and across a golf course, its mainly downhill but make a mental note that it will be mainly uphill on my return.

Another steep, swooping descent into Ratby, on either side of the track are ploughed fields lying in a kind of corduroy effect accentuated by the early sunlight. Each foot-deep furrow is walled with gleaming slabs of earth - probably too late now for frosts to break them down.  At the end of this stretch i join the main road before turning left onto another track heading to Glenfield. I pass underneath the M1 and then there's a marvellous, smooth stretch of pristine tarmac. It's pan-flat and a pleasure to ride on. White- barked larches and silver birch populate the verges with fields of sheep and a few ponies beyond a stream running parallel with the route. A few tight corners and I pass underneath the M1 again, this time its a low tunnel with the stream running alongside, another sharp corner and then another stretch of relatively smooth, tree-lined tarmac. There's some industrial units to one side as I get closer to the city, but no sign of anyone at this time in the morning. As I approach the end of the track at Glenfield there are a few dog walkers on the path, everyone greets me with a 'good morning'

I rejoin the main road and cycle up towards the council offices at Gelnfield, then its another drag of a hill up past Glenfield Hospital and then down towards the city centre. Although I'm riding along a very busy main road, I'm actually on a cycle path which takes up a section of the pavement - no people around to worry about so I feel totally safe. After a couple of miles I turn onto the final section of cycle path into the city, through grassy glades with trees and hedges, and allotments and children's play areas I ride alongside the river arriving finally at Bow Bridge - where, up until a couple of years ago, it was thought Richard III's body was thrown into the river after the battle at Bosworth. I'm in the thick of it now, multi-laned traffic, cars and buses everywhere. I stay on the pavement and make my way to the pedestrianised section of the high street, amazingly cycling is allowed here and I glide down towards humberstone gate and then on to work. We have a secure bike shed and shower facilities. I'm in, showered and ready for work by 7.45am - I have to admit, there's a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

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