Although the route may be the same, not all rides are made equal:
There are many variables that determine how a ride turns out. The weather is always a major factor and heavily influences many others, but is by no means the only one. My physical condition and state of mind play significant roles, as does “the rest of the day” (what has gone before and what is to follow).
Thursday’s ride was a good one. The sun was out, but the wind had a chill. It was warm enough for shorts, but cold enough for arm-warmers. My ride took me off the beaten track and into the countryside proper. Having spent a day sitting behind a desk in a small office, it was great to be outside in the fresh air.
Mother Nature did her bit too; the fields are full of skittish lambs and inquisitive calves. The birds were out in force at all altitudes. Small birds danced through the hedgerow as a lapwing called out overhead. A pair of pheasants proudly strutted their stuff down the centre of the road until they realised they were being watched, at which point they disappeared in a flap.
I turned a corner and found myself face to face with a small deer, quietly minding its own business in the centre of the road. We exchanged pleasantries before it ducked back into a copse of trees.
It was all going on, and provided a perfect backdrop for my ride.
Rides are not made equal, and the same goes for roads:
As a driver, I pay little attention to the roads I travel along. Unless there is a significant issue, a deep pothole, or loose surface, it’s really of little relevance to me. As a cyclist however the roads are much more of a factor. This is understandable given I can quite literally feel the road through the seat of my pants, and because the speed of movement (or lack thereof) there is plenty time to reflect on it.
When asked about most roads, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind for most cyclists is the condition of its surface. Cycling on a smooth piece of tarmac is bliss; resistance is eliminated as every stroke of the pedal is fully rewarded. Unfortunately this is a rare exception. The roads I frequent tend to offer up more than their fair share of hazards; potholes and bumps, uneven surfaces and sunken grates. Look around at your peril!
Occasionally, an optical illusion makes a climb deceptively easy, providing the sense that I’ve suddenly developed super-strength and stamina. There are a couple of routes that I regularly follow that have such hills; they never fail to delight, providing moments to savour.
Of course the general surroundings, the scenery and wildlife, make a big difference too. There are some stretches that just feel good. If I’m honest, a sense of achievement also helps with the “feel good factor”, whether it’s a building sense of momentum on a gradual descent or cresting a challenging climb, the surroundings can never be considered in isolation.
There are variable factors too. As my mind drifts, a thought might enter my head and occupy me for a few miles. If that’s the case, even the longest, most soul destroying stretch of road can pass in an instant. As my mind wanders, the miles roll by and time evaporates. It takes time to cycle long distances, but it often doesn’t feel like it.
It sounds a bit sad, but as I’ve wound around the Aberdeenshire countryside I’ve discovered one road anomaly that gives me particular pleasure:
From time to time, a road will disappear into the distance and (at the same time) re-appear in the distance, seemingly unconnected to the stretch of road I’m on. It’s only some time later that the route becomes joined up, “whole”. Usually I only catch a fleeting glimpse as I roll along. Blink and I miss it.
Over the weeks I’ve developed some rules around this:
- The ride has to cover both sections of road. If you don’t cycle along it, it doesn’t count.
- You have to be able to see the road surface. Simply seeing a vehicle on a road in the distance isn’t enough.
- It has to be the same road. There can’t be any junctions between the sections.
- The further away the “orphaned” section of road is the better.
Seeing these orphaned sections of road reminds me how lucky I am. I can’t imagine they exist in urban settings as buildings would get in the way. The anomaly generally requires changes in elevation and a winding road, both of which make riding more interesting anyway. I’m fortunate to have such beautiful and interesting surroundings to cycle in!
I’m sure there are places in the world where the phenomenon occurs more regularly, but to my mind the infrequency makes it even more “special”.
As I said, Thursday’s was a good ride! Hopefully there’ll be many more as the summer unfolds!