The other day I surprised a friend by saying that I wasn’t busy – by some strange configuration of events, I’ve got no work on at the moment and only light cycle campaigning duties, and while the garden (and, you know, writing) is taking up some of my time, I’ve also been enjoying the leisure and trying not to start any cycle campaigns by mistake, having made it almost all the way through 2017 safely so far.
That all means that I have absolutely no excuse not to fulfil my other New Year’s resolution and head off on my month’s micro adventure. The problem was where to go – I’ve done a reasonably thorough job of exploring the best routes around here. It was only yesterday when we were taking the scenic route to the garden centre that we passed this fork in the road and I remembered a little bit of unfinished business.
Years ago, when I first moved here and I was doing a bit of Open Street Mapping, I’d taken this right hand fork to explore a new road and been defeated by the resulting hill, having to get off and push (I thought I’d blogged about it, but I can’t find it). It was back on my old bike, and before I’d done as much cycling – or indeed taken to living up the side of a hill – so I was wondering if I could manage it now. Technically, this is not a new route, but as I had to walk the last section, it would be the first time I’d actually cycled it, assuming I made it, so I decided that would count. So today, with the sun shining, and almost no wind, and a morning to myself, was the perfect time to try.
First, I had to get there – which meant a hill in itself. The river valleys tend to run west to east around here, so any ride north or south normally means going up and over a hill. This is a road I’m getting quite fond of, despite its gradient, because there are few things lovelier than an avenue of beech trees, in almost any season.
Then, after a few more miles, I reached the fork in the road. The road wound up to the right, but as I started up it, wasn’t all that bad, to be honest. I began to wonder whether I’d just been terribly unfit back then when I’d been defeated by this road.
There was even a spot where it levelled off sufficiently to stop and take photos of the view of Bigtown in all its loveliness.
And then I turned the corner and it kicked up enough that I had to give it the full Thomas Voeckler gurn (tell me you also make faces when you’re struggling up a hill on a bike…). As I battled up and round another corner, not only did it kick up again, but there were a couple out for a nice stroll who had to witness my hill-climbing face in all its glory.
‘Keep going’, the woman said, and I did – I made it. It wasn’t pretty, but I cycled all the way up. I don’t know whether because I’m fitter, have improved my technique (or my gurning) or if it’s true what Greg Le Mond didn’t say – “It doesn’t get any easier, you just get a better bike”. But I’m glad I’ve laid that one to rest all the same.
Sadly, this wasn’t the kind of hill where you get impressive vistas from the top – or even any sense of how steep the road was, but I stopped to take a few photographs anyway, once I’d finished leaning on my handlebars trying to breathe in all the air in Bigtownshire.
Then it was just a matter of cycling home, where I noticed that the pipeline people appear to have started using their pipeline route as a handy shortcut. But that’s an adventure for another day – and a different bike …