Every morning, rain or shine, winter, spring, summer, and fall, I go for a ride on my bicycle, up at sparrows and out the door for a thirty-mile slice of fresh-cut Sussex countryside before breakfast, double or even triple that on lazy summer Sundays.
I do this purely for pleasure; there’s nothing here of the dedicated wannabe, out there putting in his long, lonely pre-dawn miles, training for the next big race or time trial. I’ve never raced a bicycle in my life. I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to do such a thing. Cycling for me has never been about competition and pressure, the structured regime of training or the intensity of a race; it’s always been my escape from that sort of hustle and bustle, a chance to slip away for a while into a gentler, slower, pedal-powered world, one that is still rich in detail and ripe for discovery.
These morning rides are my quiet time, pleasurable hours spent exercising my imagination as much as my legs. I like to be on the road by four-thirty, if I can so I’ll have plenty of time to go long. Four-thirty is a beautiful hour of day to be abroad on a bicycle, spinning along an English country lane, entirely on your own, free, clear and beholden to no one, while all the rest of the world is asleep. In the summer the sky is aglow with a creamy pink light, the sun making ready to rise and a dawn chorus of birds chattering in the hedgerows; in winter its cold starlight, the moon shimmering through bare branches, ice in the puddles and snowflakes swirling in the beam of my headlamp.
Either way, it’s exhilarating. By the time I roll up to the house again two hours later, put the bike away and get the kettle on for coffee, I feel like I’ve been somewhere, had an adventure. And being a writer by profession and by habit, I want to write about these things, share them with others. Alas, the magazines for which I usually write have only limited needs for cycling stories, whereas I have ten thousand miles a year worth of cycling-inspired thoughts and imaginings I want to put to print. And so this blog.