I ride for lots of reasons. Sometimes it’s cake offset, cheese burning, calorie counting. Delayed gratification – the knowledge that somewhere along the line, this ride is doing me good.
Sometimes it’s to override the pain in my brain, or my soul. Not for joy, or pleasure. No whoops or whips. Head down, eyes stinging, muscles burning, hurt without harm. For Jenn, for Paul, for all those who can’t and won’t. I ride to escape the world, the news, and myself. No thinking, just pedalling. Switch off.
Sometimes it’s simpler, a need to get from A to B. When running late (as I often do) that can be a purely functional exercise – head down, pedal, get there. But, when time allows, there’s a great many small pleasures to be derived from the A to B ride. Sit up, take notice, look around. Breath deep, smell the smells. Pause at a gate, listen to the skylarks, the sheep, the trickling of water off a rock.
In the depths of winter, such dawdling can result in rapid cooling, frozen fingers, unfeeling toes. But now, as Spring shows its colours and the sun warms the winds, there is time for a spot of procrastination. To appreciate the surroundings beyond the ribbon of trail ahead. Four deer bounding up a field, or a heron taking off from the oversized puddle where frogs are laying their spawn. That first sighting of a lamb, then fields full of them, and as the season progresses they lose their novelty and merge with the rest of the sheep on the hillside. Notice them too – they don’t all look the same. Sheep with ringlets, patches like pirates, big woolly necks like manes.
You don’t need to ‘go epic’ (hashtag). Just ride, look around you, and take pleasure in the little things that you see because you are there, at that moment, riding. Things that those who choose other ways to get from here to there will miss out on. Here are my small pleasures from today’s slightly circuitous ride to work.
I love a bit of lichen. It’s often a signifier of clean air, and as it takes ages to grow, it’s a sign that something has sat, undisturbed for ages. Close up there are all kinds of different textures, and the varieties and colours vary across landscapes. This supremely green lichen along this wall looked almost too bright to be natural, but it is.
I love a bit of texture, plus I like the effect that a bit of decay can have on things. The contrast between the colour of the paint on this old shipping container and the rust beneath caught my eye.
You can’t really see this one, it’s a sound. Too quiet to pick up in a video over the ruffle of the breeze, skylarks were singing their twittery tune, bodies little dots in the sky. Somewhere in all this grass and moor will be their nests.
Often gates are a source of annoyance on a ride – although occasionally they can provide a welcome excuse for a break and a bit of a faff. Oh the frustration of slightly broken and wonky latches, or obscure do-I-push-this-or-pull-that mechanisms. This particular gate is pleasingly simple to get through – it’s obvious how it works – and the wood under this sturdy metal hook is rubbed and polished away by many a hooking and unhooking.
All too often, I sweat my way up and then head straight for the thrill of the descent, missing out on the pleasures of that short flat at the top, not taking in the view. Today’s summit was improved by being the driest I’ve seen it in months. No wheel swallowing swamps today.
This packhorse trail or causey stone path is typical of Calderdale. These are still fairly regular, not sunken into the bog beneath at awkward angles as elsewhere. I love the bumpity bump challenge of riding these trails – a workout for legs, arms and nerves.
Known as the ‘Penny Steps’ this is one of my favourite local paths. A body quivering challenge on a rigid drop bar bike, or a ‘how fast dare you go’ whooping experience on a mountain bike. I now bring every test bike down here, and every time I remember how, starting out, I found this trail scarily steep and rough.
Adding pleasant smells as well as sights, this blossom felt like a confirmation that warm days are really coming, and with it daylight.
Cars are rarely a source of happiness for me. I’m not interested in them (apart from how many bikes you can fit in them, and whether you can sleep in them if your tent fails). On rides they’re almost always a source of angst and stress. Today I spotted this – I’ve no idea what it is, and I imagine owning it is a constant battle against bits falling off, and fuel consumption. But it looks cool, even I can appreciate that.
And there we have it. An extra 30 minutes on my basic commute, and a handful of reasons to be cheerful. A basic, functional A to B ride transformed into a source of happiness. What will you spot?