For The Sake Of It?

The roads are foul – debris strewn, wet, and filthy with both human and nature’s rubbish. If it’s not raining it will be shortly. If it’s not blowing a gale it will be shortly. True, around here – Berkshire and South Oxfordshire – we’re getting away with it relatively lightly (so far at least); there are plenty of places struggling far more with the consequences of all this bad weather. Nevertheless, it’s not as much fun as it could be if you’re out riding a bike this winter.

That all raises a question: what is it a measure of that I still went out today? What does it indicate that I’ve two friends (who are like me, cyclists for pleasure rather than necessity) who’ve been telling me that they’re either going out in the lousy conditions anyway, or are genuinely feeling the worse for not getting out?

Perhaps there’s something about the science of it – the pleasure-related chemicals released into the brain through exercise; perhaps you can get addicted to them. Perhaps that’s tied-in with our ancient ancestors and the fact that at root we aren’t made to live and work indoors. What I do know is that the desire to get out and ride is real – and it’s recommended. Leaving the obviously dangerous times aside, and as I’ve said before, it’s very rare indeed for a ride to be a mistake.

So the next time you see a cyclist out in bad weather, don’t think they’re out riding for the sake of it. Don’t think they’re daft. Think, instead, about joining in.

Winter tree line

And the light at this time of year has a unique quality too

No Surprises / New Thrills

One night during the week I woke up sometime around three, the house was cold … and it was very quiet; everywhere felt very still. Sleep-befuddled, I briefly wondered if it was cold enough for snow.

Of course it wasn’t – as I knew from the forecasts. Despite the iffy nature of British weather forecasting, it’s rare that weather will be surprising. By and large, the errors are within safe margins.

Mid-week, I had to go Buckingham way for a business meeting, to somewhere I’d never been before. I plotted a route in some detail and printed it out. (As is my wont, if I can find a back-roads kind of way I normally will. SatNavs just don’t give you the flexibility.) I looked up the place I was going on Google’s Street View and fixed that in my mind before leaving. I checked for road works and other problems before I left.

I had a totally uneventful trip and found the place with ease, recognising it from Street View. Hassle free! Stress free!

And I had pretty well no sense of adventure, and no sense of discovery. As with the weather, it seems there are fewer and fewer opportunities for surprises these days.

My first reaction to that thought was that it’s a shame. Of course, there’s the option to wilfully remain in the dark but that seems, well, just stupid – and realising that made me think that having all this knowledge to hand isn’t a shame: it just moves the focus. Whereas once there might have been a thrill in finding something out for yourself and now that’s easy … the thrill, surely, now lies in what you do with whatever it is you’ve been able to find out about.

As for cycling, this week has seen a 40+ mile ride on Monday, a routine circumnavigation of Reading and a shorter one in South Oxon’s mucky lanes today. However, whichever way you tackle it, riding at this time of year doesn’t have a great deal of sparkle.

If you’re trying to keep the miles up and your legs in good shape then you can take the approach I was adopting on Monday and go for longer rides – do the weekly distance, but have to make yourself go out less frequently. The trouble is, that gets a bit of a grind after a cold and grey couple of hours …

So, instead, you can take the ‘several short trips’ option – but then you’re having to muster up the initial will power more often.

You could just stay in of course – but “winter miles equals summer smiles” and all that …

Just merging-in naturally

Just merging-in naturally