Tales of The Unexpected | A Bicycle Commute Short Story

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Hannah rides to work, and has another of those moments that remind you why taking the bike will always trump hopping in the car.

I’ve not ridden the proper off road route to work for a while. A combination of logistics and a poorly knee (don’t drink beer and ride bikes in bikinis, folks!) have kept me on the flat and faster routes. But today I couldn’t think of any more reasons not to, so off I went.

Dropping down over an old stone bridge, just before the start of the main climb that runs almost continuously to the watershed that takes me down to the office on the other side, two men crossed my path. Ruddy faced, thick waisted farming types in wellies, each carrying a large container, one metal, one plastic. They had the look of beer barrels, or maybe milk churns, but what really caught my eye was that one of them was steaming.

goat semen
When you have a bike like this and scenery like this, there are no excuses.

Fresh milk? I wondered as I rode past. Hot, straight from the cow? Except, as far as I know, there’s only a handful of pigs near this particular point. No cows. And, collecting milk on such a small scale didn’t seem like a likely commercial operation.

I looked back over my shoulder, to see the metal container being tipped into the plastic one. Great frothing white fronds of smokey steam were climbing into the air, like some kind of witches’ brew. This wasn’t normal steam, and that certainly wasn’t milk, or beer. This was like something stolen from a chemistry lab, perhaps some secure bio-hazard store. I wondered what it could be – I know there’s the pig farmer, a pub, and a bee keeper all nearby. I couldn’t think how this might relate to any of them though.

I looked back up the hill, turned the pedals a couple more times, then figured that not knowing what this was was going to bug me for the rest of the ride. What’s the point in riding if you’re not going to stop and take in the things that catch your eye? I made a U-turn.

By now the pouring of one container into the other had stopped, and frothing mist was gathered all round the ankles of the two men, sticking slightly to the road like candy floss before drifting into the air and becoming nothingness. The two men looked up, tendrils of this vapour clinging to them.

‘Curiosity has got the better of me’ I confessed, ‘What is that?’

‘Liquid nitrogen’


There was the briefest of pauses, ‘It’s for storing…’

Again, the briefest of pauses. Just a butterfly’s breath in a sentence, but just a tiny bit longer than the last pause.

I suddenly realise I think I know what’s coming. I enjoy the moment of the man’s hesitation, discomfort. I notice he’s wearing a cap with a picture of a cow on it. His fellow farmer flicks his glance between the two of us.

‘…bovine, equine or ovine semen’.

I barely skip a beat.

‘Which one’s in there?’


Cow hannah
Not a goat.

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Hannah Dobson

Hannah came to Singletrack having decided there must be more to life than meetings. Having worked in policy and project management roles at the Scottish Parliament and in local government, Hannah had organisational skills that SIngletrack needed. She also likes bikes, and likes to write.

Hannah likes all bikes, but especially unusual ones. If it’s a bit odd, or a bit niche, or made of metal, she’s probably going to get excited. If it gets her down some steep stuff, all the better. She’ll give most things a go once, she tries not to say no to anything on a bike, unless she really thinks it’s going to hurt. She’s pretty good with steri-strips.

More than bikes, Hannah likes what bikes do. She thinks that they link people and places; that cycling creates a connection between us and our environment; bikes create communities; deliver freedom; bring joy; and improve fitness. They're environmentally friendly and create friendly environments.

Hannah tries to write about all these things in the hope that others might discover the joy of bikes too.

Comments (4)

    Lovely bit of writing that. Nothing symbolises the bucolic beauty of West Yorkshire than two grown men draining a goat in the early morning air.

    Didn’t offer to give them a hand?

    Haha, so none of the above then, Caprine if I’m not mistaken?
    Nice piece Hannah!

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