I’m one of the lucky ones. Should I chose to do so I can take a sliver of gravel and cobbles to get to and from work. Two hours each way, for me. The other option is a 35-minute train ride with my bike and a 5-minute spin at the end. Either one is quite pleasant.
This morning I rolled out into the darkness, and after the involuntary shivering stopped my mind kicked in. These rides are my personal quiet time, when I get to think about what has been going on with my life. The two hours inbound are usually a mixture of to do lists, pre-work checks, wondering if I’ve left the keys in the door as I leave the darkness of the valleys behind and roll towards the glowing bowl of the city.
The ride home is usually blissful, watching the city fade from view giving way to the first crunch of real gravel and pastures full of horses. It is here where I make my choices, both physical and metaphorical. Where I lay a map down on the table in my mind and chose the direction I will take.
Last Friday I rode home clouded in sadness. One of my favourite people, Jenn, was probably never going to ride her bike again, the one thing she loved nearly as much as her husband Tom. That ride is not one I want to do again, hating every moment of it because I could, and she could not. Pointless anger directed at an out of control physiological response. Like shouting at trees for being too pretty. Fuck off trees. Pointless.
I know she’d be happy that we’ve riding bikes, eating cake, thinking about the good times we had. I know she’d be uncomfortable at the tales of the people she’s inspired. I also know she’d probably like a pork based product and some tea – but not Earl Grey as it apparently tastes like crap.
I have many wonderful memories of Jenn, most of which include suffering on a bike. Struggling on top of Whernside during that year of the Three Peaks with her tiny frame tucked into my wind shadow to keep her on the mountain. 24-hour mountain bike racing with her hurling helpful abuse from Tom’s pit at me. Crashing into her at full speed during a ‘cross race with my over enthusiastic descending skills failed – she was a spectator.
This evening’s commute will be different though. A week has passed without my friend. A week without an email, text, or pointed editorial comment on my often-flouncy writing. A week where I’ve probably thought more about her and what effect she had on many of us from a wide audience of ‘cross riders, mountain bikers and adventure seekers.
A common friend shared a photo with me during the week taken at the start of the Tour Divide in 2008. Everything in that photo sums up Jenn for me. That cheeky smile. The inappropriate bike. Living life to the full. As should you. As I will. Let’s go ride some bikes.
Beer of the Week
Vedett Extra White – 4.7% AVB
“A delicious refreshing taste, surprisingly crisp punctuated with an orange- and lemon like zest, rounded with a mildly bitter taste and dry finish.”
When in doubt, go Belgian. Vedett is one of a few firm favourites in my life, and an appropriate beer to drink with friends, food and spannering in the workshop. Cold and crisp like a great Autumn evening, this is one to savour.