Okay. That makes no sense. It’s clickbait of the highest order, though of course, my few select readers come of their own volition, so there’s a reasonable chance you are going to read it anyway. But as most of you are either one or the other, or both, it will probably pique your interest.
So now I am going to have spend the rest of the post trying to unravel the knot I have tied.
(Side note: Jim, I have ordered two neat 500ml black bidons with a little splash of yellow for the cages, but they haven’t arrived yet.)
I went out for a spin during the week to really test the new set-up. The weather was fine and I decided to head out along the Royal Canal Greenway, west, towards Enfield. If the Covid Police are reading this, then you can pop the fine in the post, because I breached the new lockdown rules by about 5k. I discovered that the gears will need another tune up, but that’s an ecumenical matter which will be resolved shortly.
I must also confess that I was breaching another rule; this one is one of my own. I always wear my bike lid when I am out and about on the public highway. As I knew I was going to stay on the greenway, at a modest pace, I chose a baseball hat instead. Anyway, that’s enough public flogging for now… on with the post.
As I sailed along in the pleasant breeze and warm sunshine, I passed many a runner. The effort seemed to really show in their faces, and of course, that would normally be me. I too must look fairly rosy when I’m out jogging. Only the truly gifted, like Bekele and Kipchoge, can lope along like gazelles without a care in the world, at staggering pace. For the rest of us mortal folk, it is effort, grit, and grimace.
How lovely, then, to be noodling along at 25kmh, and not a bead of sweat in sight. And so the silly analogy came to mind: this is like running. Only easier. Though when you are putting in the effort, it’s more akin to a swan: graceful enough on top, but furiously paddling away below the waterline. And I was also reminded of that other immutable law of cycling: ‘If you think the wind is in your face, wait ’til you turn for home…’
So, have at it, ye cyclists! I know I am only an interloper. I understand I have been known to spoil a good cycle by swimming first, and then running afterwards. Running’s more my thing, and yet, each time I take the bike out, I remember how much I enjoy it. As has been remarked on before, it’s just the right pace: not too slow, like running, which doesn’t tend to get you very far in pure distance terms, nor too fast, like driving, which is not an occupation given to sight-seeing anyway. You are in a hermetically-sealed bubble and all life flashes past in an instant, and there is no time to take in the minutiae of life – the little patch of flowers, the buzzard on the pole, the subtle changes in the weather.
Running requires a bit of effort; you are very often thinking about your pace, your goal, your training. You are on oft-trodden paths. In the car, you have a destination, and the journey is more often a hindrance than a pleasure. The bike; the bike is different. It allows you to become the journey. You can travel well beyond your running limits and discover new byways. Not that any of this is news to cyclists out there.
And so, I sallied forth west, into the flatlands of north Kildare. I made it to Ferrans Lock and a mate rang to invite me to lunch. I agreed, though I knew I would be a little late for traditional lunch hour, but I pressed on to Cloncurry Bridge, which was exactly 25k from home, and I stopped for a quick break before heading back eastwards.
The Greenway will prove very popular, I am sure. The canal has been a great attraction for years, regardless of the condition of the towpath, but now it is a uniform, hard-packed grit surface, it will be even more popular than ever. It’s not one for the lycra-brigade. It’s just too narrow for road bikes to be whipping along in any number, especially during the day when there are any amount of dog walkers and mums out strolling with prams. And that’s as it should be. I might add that I don’t subscribe to the ‘lycra-clad’ moniker. It’s always used in the pejorative, much in the same way as MAMIL is (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra). It’s a lazy trope, but I suppose in simple terms, it does separate out the casual cyclist on a standard bike from the more serious road bike user.
All of which might prompt the question: what the hell was I doing on the towpath then? Well, it’s a valid question, and I can’t really answer it, other than to say I was breaking myself (and my bike, just in case) gently back into gear (!) and chose the towpath as an easy option. I was on my own and I was going at an easy pace. There are plenty of offset gates, bridges and other other obstacles to slow you down in any case.
And so that was the tale of my cycle. In other news, the woods locally continue their own cycle: that of Spring into Summer, though we are not officially there yet. (Nice segue, by the way, as opposed to a nice Segway, which doesn’t exist. Ed.) But it has its own rhythms and when the Wood Anemones and Greater Stitchwort appear, and the Wild Garlic is about to explode in a pungent display of pure white; well, to me, that’s Summer.
Bluebells are the other telltale sign. Our local woods do not have a great display, like some others, but there is one little clump that appears each year along one path, and I greet them like an old friend when they arrive.
Apart from that, life continues on. My success with the bike has prompted me to re-do my Fender Stratocaster. I had stripped it not that long ago and changed the colour, and then added some artwork. But it wasn’t quite right, and so before lockdown ends for good and we all have to get back to work without any excuses, I might just try and do this one last piece of tomfoolery. Fear not, dear reader. You will join me on that journey!
This last visual gag only works for those of a certain vintage. The sign was at Ferrans Lock on my cycle, but it gives you an indication of how convoluted my mind is when it sees words in a certain order. It’s an affliction. Just like riding a bike, sometimes you just have to roll with it…