THAT FIRST RIDE…..
You’ve read about us if you’ve ever read a newspaper that’s aimed at aspirational, left leaning types. Actually it might not have made the print edition, but you will have read about us if you visited the website of a paper aimed at aspirational, left leaning types. There’s been thousands of us in the last year, maybe even a 6 figure amount. Annecdotally there are millions more who think they may join us. Who are we? We’re the people that have sacked off London to go live somewhere else.
Me, I fled to the North West, to Glossop. A small town on the end of the line into Manchester, and a few short pedal strokes east of the Peak District. The world has a lot of places, but really there were not many of them that we, myself and my partner, could go. Imagine a Venn Diagram with one Set being places I could possibly find work, another with places my partner is willing to consider living, and a third Set of places where the cycling is amazing. The only place all 3 of these overlap is Glossop, and that’s only because the BBC had a huge influence on Set A when they moved up to Salford.
Once we have been somewhere for a while, to ride that place is to monitor it, to be moved along taking in the subtleties of its ever changing landscape. We are two wheeled custodians but with only the power to observe, very rarely to intervene. But to ride a place for the first time is a baby step in trying to understand that place, to see the ways it connects to the rest of the world, and to give it the permission to begin to shape you as a cyclist.
I’m prepared for this first ride, I think. If preparedness involves knocking up a route on Strava, then I’m prepared for this ride. That first ride could be anything, I could go left instead of right at the end of my new road, I could ride for weeks before returning to my new house, but I’ll turn right, keep it short, 80km or so. I don’t want to wish any of it away thinking that I would rather be at home than still on the road. This ride could define the relationship between myself and my new home. Let’s get off on the right foot…..
LIGHTS = LIFE
Lights. You’ll need lights if you want to carry on doing this and be alive at the same time. I find this out too late as I climb Snake Pass. 6km or so at 6%. I was made for roads like this. Turns that this might be true in body but not in mind. It’s the middle of the day and it’s perfectly clear down in the valley. Up here, though….. Up here it’s the sort of mist that you could mistake for being in the afterlife. Visibility is down to about 25 meters. Next time I’ll know to bring lights.
Moments later I can see again. More importantly I can be seen again. I’m descending away from the afterlife, heading towards the light, it’s not your time, Tom. By my calculations I’ll be descending for around 15km or so. Roads like this could mean that I’m still capable of averaging over 30kmh for a ride like I used to do on the relatively flat roads of Hertfordshire.
Past the reservoir. This is beautiful but the descent is over and I’m climbing again. A left turn and I’m headed into remoteness. But someone has been here before. They’ve left me a message written on the road. It reads “emoorF oG” but it’s upside down. The Tour De France visited this road in the middle of nowhere. I remember that they finished in Sheffield, in civilization. I’m going to opposite way.
Walls either side now. Their only job seems to be to keep me and the mist apart. It’s like flying through a cloud and I haven’t got a clue which way is up or down. I think I’m climbing but I’m doing about 40kph. I’ve ridden into Bizzaroworld. Should I keep going? Yes. I mean No. Which one means ‘Yes’ in Bizzaroworld?
A left turn and I’m back on familiar territory. Familiar because I drove the van here once when I was doing the house move.
Another left turn and I’m on that road I was excited about riding. Turns out it’s much more pleasant in a van. The road is nice but the mist is now a fog and I’m invisible again. If I wave my arms about will that lorry give me a wide berth?
Over the crest of the hill and I’m descending again. No more worries about the passing traffic as none of them can go as fast as me. I’m carving lines that I’ve only seen the pros do on TV. I might learn to be a decent descender given a year or two up here. Must remember to take lights if I want to last that long.
GEOSOMETHING OR OTHER
Back in Glossop in the new home and I can already feel how my new landscape is going to reshape me. I’ll climb more but that’s what I wanted, right? I’ll descend for longer and at crazier speeds, but that’s what I needed to improve, right? I realize that I only have partial control over the cyclist that I am set to become. Turbo sessions I can control but it’s geography, or geology (I can’t quite decide which one is in charge of the shape of the land) that is in control of me. I’ll report back on my metamorphosis in a few months…. If I can remember to take my lights out with me.