So, I went out for a 40-mile solo ride this afternoon, as you apparently do when you’re breaking the habit of a lifetime and semi seriously training for something. And I have to admit, given the brisk wind and the random showers (which at least weren’t hailstorms or snow showers, I suppose – it’s come to something when the Weather Gods have managed our expectations to the point that liquid precipitation in May is considered an improvement) that I wasn’t exactly feeling the whole cycling love as I set out.
But I’d wanted to make sure I could stand my own company and keep my speed respectable (as well as navigate …) on longer rides, and as I powered up one of the last hills, I was feeling pretty good, despite the fact that I was doing so into a serious headwind. I was on course to manage 40 miles (including a 25 minute cafe stop and a short pause while a man on a quad bike attempted to round up an escaping cow that was galloping along on the road) in four hours, I hadn’t seriously fallen with myself and I was replete with coffee and cake, neither of which I’d had to make myself.
As is traditional round here, I paused to exchange pleasantries with an older man who was standing by the side of the road looking a bit amused at my slow progress up the hill, and we got to chatting, during which I learned that he used to deliver bin lorries (‘and Postman Pat vans’) all around the country (it is only as I type this that I realise I have many questions about bin lorry delivering), and that he currently makes walking sticks with rams’ horn handles, some of which were rather amazingly cool – he dug out an actual packet of actual photos (as you might pick up from an actual chemist, circa 1994) to show me and I’m now wondering who in my life might appreciate such a thing. And then, he having given me his card, we parted ways and I cycled home feeling that the whole outing had been made worthwhile.
One of the things I love about living here is the way random strangers will occasionally just tell me their life story in the course of a bus journey, a cycle ride, or a roadside chat. As a Londoner it’s always a little startling, but I always appreciate it when it happens. Lockdown has meant those moments have been rather few and far between, but if getting out further and more often on the bike means more of them then that alone will have made it all worthwhile.