Reasons To Be Cheerful

by Hannah Dobson 16

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.

Lichen Hannah
No filter, no colour adjust, this is real.

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.

Peeling Pain Hannah
Peeling paint, good if it’s not yours.

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.

Moor Hannah
Wild

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.

Gate Hannah
Built to last.

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.

Moor Hannah
Up at the top.

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.

Packhorse Hannah
Such effort to build this trail.

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.

Penny Steps Hannah

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.

Spring Hannah
Spring, it’s happening.

Adding pleasant smells as well as sights, this blossom felt like a confirmation that warm days are really coming, and with it daylight.

Car Mexico Hannah
Even I can appreciate this is a cool car.

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?

Comments (16)

  1. Nice one Hannah. I have lots of short A to B rides as part of my daily commute but I always enjoy taking a moment like this and try to do it on every ride. Don’t always succeed but that’s not the point. Keep the articles coming…

  2. Love this write up! 🙂 that gate picture is great, I love the wear you get on things like this, worn down over countless uses.

  3. +1 . Lots to be gained from the small things found on a ride. To easy to miss sometimes. As it heats up the first adder of the year is always special.

  4. Cool article plus I dig the car!

  5. Thanks for all the nice feedback everyone.
    @Yak – adders were a regular thing in Dumfries & Galloway where I grew up (in fact we had a snake catching jar and net on hand as they were so often in the conservatory!). I don’t think I’ve seen one since I left – I sort of miss them, but also don’t miss being on ‘stick’ alert when riding!

  6. @stwhannah – I’ll try and get a trail adder pic then when I spot one – hopefully soon. I’ve got a few likely spots to check. Solo lunch rides are best for this. ‘Stick’ alert indeed!

  7. This made my day. Thanks Hannah.

  8. @Yak, @stwhannah – I live on the edge of Swinley Forest & there are adders there. Saw an eentsy baby one last year, about 3 inches long…

  9. I have come late to this as I have been on grandfatherly duties in Yorkshire (no ironing fortunately). Much as I love reading about fabulous bikes, new kit, and technical trails, I love this and consider it a breath of fresh air, showing as it does what pleasure there is in ordinary things that can so easily pass unnoticed. Well done stwhannah, I hope to read lots more from you.

  10. car geek alert the car looks like a mk 1 ford escort mexico ,there I`ve said it. and yes it is cool.

  11. Thanks Hannah – that has cheered me up and inspired me to ride my bike tomorrow. Chapeau…

  12. Thanks Hannah for the inspiration to get out more and your enthusiasm for your ride. Great photos!

  13. Great column, Hannah, thank you. I (we?) need more like that. I’ve properly lost interest in bike & kit reviews, but articles like yours keep the inspiration coming. Bizarrely, I regularly admired a wrought iron gate hook on one of my rides, much worn and distorted by use, abuse, and corrosion exacerbated by the salty sea air, but someone has now made off with it: I like to think it has a new life as a sculpture!

  14. Well crafted, insightful and much appreciated; more like this please.

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