Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Saturday solo....

I'd planned to meet up with Gary for a ride, we haven't done too many things together this year and the Friday pub session with the usual omnipresent bike-talk made me feel like making the effort . But Gary had to work Saturday morning so we decided to do our own thing. My plan started out as a simple 90 minute meander along my usual route. I have a hankering these days for slowness. I like to look around without the concentration needed when travelling at speed, for then the need to be aware of the road surface along with all that might threaten safe passage is paramount. A man grows older, and my 'new' bike, although a lovely machine, is beginning to feel like a young Valkyrie who wears me out with her prodigious appetite.

I headed out on my bike of choice of late - my trusty Trek 7.5FX. here is an old girl that, if the need arises, can turn a head of speed, but is happy and content to drift along at a more sedate and regal pace. And the added bonus is that there is absolutely no need to snipe at any stray cyclists that enter my no-ride zone. I don't feel the need to chase distance figures or, better still, feel no frustration when attacked from behind by some nifty noughties racer dressed in black on a matt black steed more akin to a stealth fighter plane than a bicycle. Leave them to it I say, let me go slow and watch the butterflies, or stop to admire a beautiful tree. Let me gaze at the immense enveloping green vista stretching out beyond the hedgerows; let me dream of mystery, romance and unfulfilled adventure.

The day is warm and welcoming as the golden glow of another beautiful dawn fades to blue. There's the blended song of blackbird and mistle thrush for the soundtrack and all is well. I feel happy and content and decide I don't want to stop. Instead of turning up the hill and the route home I carry on, still holding the gentle rhythm that seems perfectly natural and rewarding. I mooch around the lanes, stopping occasionally to peer through a gap between trees or to look at the patterns on the bark of a tree. It feels like it should feel. Unhurried and with no pressure of time. I pass a pub and decide to stop, rolling onto the car-park and up to the garden area at the rear. There are people gathered at picnic tables, eating, drinking and enjoying the sunshine. Some children are gathering tufts of grass and leaves to feed the pub chickens housed in a shady corner of the garden. I buy a pint and settle at a table with my bike perched at the end. Then I notice a group of cyclists arriving. Ordinarily this would be an expected, almost typical sight on a sunny Saturday afternoon - but this collection of five are all riding Brompton bikes. What would be the collective noun?..... a clot perhaps? The sight from a distance somehow conjours up a vision of Reliant Robin's and Thermos flasks of Tupperware boxes and cheese sandwiches. As it happens they set up at the next table to me and inevitably a conversation strikes up. The leader of the group is over eager to demonstrate the Brompton offering - that it folds away quickly and neatly and can be easily carried around. He's something of zealot, folding and unfolding the machine with dextrous speed and efficiency, discoursing at length on its lightness and portability as well as the quality of its ride. I was sold - had he have been carrying a spare I may have purchased it there and then. As it was one of his Brompton buddies was indeed carrying another Brompton, neatly stashed in a special bag - this was properly nerdish - a bit of bike-on-bike action - maybe that's what the foldaway perverts really go for! Truth is though there really is a lot going for the Brompton brand. And I have to admit to an element of desire. Come the lottery win there'll definitely be a Brompton somewhere - and it wouldn't take up much space in my dream bike shed. Think of the opportunities - get on a train with the Brommie folded, pop off at some far flung destination, pedal around a bit, get a bus, a ferry, even in a car, pedal some more - and no need to worry about leaving it around to get stolen, this baby goes everywhere you do.

I only stayed for the one beer - I felt the need to cycle along the canal towpath back towards Ashby - at least I think it was towards Ashby? - it was definitely the Ashby Canal. After a mile of so of unhindered bliss I emerged back onto the road and made my way back towards home. But even then I felt the need to carry on - back at the foot of the hill that would take me home I ignored the turning yet again - this time happy to simply repeat the first 10 miles of my journey instead. And every mile was just as enjoyable as the first time round. To be honest I can't remember a ride I've enjoyed more. The conditions were just perfect; beautifully calm and warm but not oppressive. I approached the hill turn for the third time. This time I stopped at the foot and wondered whether to carry on - 45 miles covered and I felt I could easily cover the same again. But by now it was 2.00pm - I'd been out since early morning and reality was beginning to influence my judgement. Too much of a good thing and all that. So I set off for home, but with a smile on my face.

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