On a nice day (or rather the night before a nice day has been forecast), I will sometimes decide to cycle to work rather than use the car or take the bus. It’s only 8 miles or so. The route I take is slightly longer than any of the alternatives but it is the safest, as it by-passes all of the major roads. I did travel one of the other routes a couple of times but pretty soon realised that even wearing my fluorescent yellow cycle jacket and with my bike lights on, I miraculously metamorphose into the invisible woman, as soon as my foot touches the pedal and I start to move.
That said, the first obstacle I have to overcome on my cycling commute is the hill out of the village! It is very steep (approximately 1:14) and almost a mile long. I usually get about one third of the way up (the steepest bit) when the ‘Ohhhh my goodness!!! What am I doing?” thought (or something very similar but not quite so publishable) crosses my mind. There have been times ……. okay if I’m being truthful, every single time ….. when I reach this point and seriously consider turning around and heading back home for the car or bus. I never have though, pushing on through the pain of breathlessness, the gasping, the jelly legs – I obviously walk not ride up the hill – until I reach the final corner which is the start of a much kinder incline.
Once I’ve reached the top of the hill, the rest of the journey is much gentler, being mainly downhill with only the occasional gentle incline and I get my second wind pretty quickly. I can usually get to work in just under 50 minutes.
But of course the flip side is that each long, gentle slope that I cycle down in a morning becomes a thigh burning, breathlessness creating incline for the trip back. To be fair, some of them are barely there and I don’t have too much of an issue heading back on those but there are some humdingers, not so much for the steepness of them but the fact that they go on for a mile or more, some bits more inclined than others and it becomes a veritable battle of wills to keep on cycling on the best of days ….. but throw in a strong wind and boy, that’s a whole different ball game.
I cycled to work one day last week, in lovely sunny weather with just a hint of a chill in the air and it took around 48 minutes. But when I left work to come home that was a completely different story. From the first pedal stroke, I was battling the wind. The whole journey home felt a lot like I was trying to cycle in treacle and there were occasions when I was almost literally cycling on the spot, making next to no progress at all. My legs had gone way beyond jelly and fire and it took some serious will power not to give up – although, how I thought I was getting home if I wasn’t prepared to cycle, helped me stay focussed on the journey in hand.
Thanks to the undulating
wind tunnels lanes of Lincolnshire, what would normally take me about 50 minutes took approximately 80 minutes, not that the residents of Mudville seemed to notice my non/late appearance. Trying to dismount outside the house was an event in itself, as my legs suddenly seemed to be devoid of bone and my poor muscles were in no fit state to support a feather, never mind the weight of an adult woman. I allowed myself a couple of minutes composure time before attempting to swing my leg up and over, to let the pins and needles in my hand fade away, to regain my breath. Getting my bike up the 9 inch deep front door step and through the ‘built in the days when people were hobbit sized’ internal doorways, was a work out in its’ own right and by the time I’d parked my bike in its’ usual spot, I was about ready to collapse and was uttering phrases along the lines of ‘Never again!!!’
I certainly slept well that night and was pleasantly surprised by just how little I was aching the following morning. Whenever possible and weather permitting, I intend to try and cycle a couple of times each week during the spring and summer months, maybe even as much as three times per week.
I did stop and take some pictures during that nightmare journey because wind and inclines aside, I do live in a particularly beautiful part of England.