On saying yes

Having been rather light on adventure lately, things have started to pick up again at last. My planning fingers had been twitching over maps, notebook and spreadsheets, but in truth it has taken me a long time to bounce back from the first few months of the year. Finding someone to come and share my desired adventures is also proving a challenge.

A couple of weeks ago, the time came to brave the Scottish summer weather and head out on my bike. (Well, both bikes actually, but the motorbike trip is a story for another day)

I thought it had been 6 months since I’d last been cycling but I was horrified to discover it was a massively embarrassing 9 months.

Being completely honest, I’ve been a little bit scared to get back on. I didn’t fall, nothing bad happened. I just stopped going, found other things that needed my time or effort, and then I lost my bottle.

And then the sun was out one evening, for the first time in what felt like far too long. So I dusted my bike off, put some air in my tyres and wondered if I could still manage to unclip from my pedals at the appropriate moment.

I set off, with my heart pounding in my chest and my shoulders and arms shaking as I approached the first set of traffic lights. Safely negotiated, foot back in, breathe out just a little. Next was the first hill, and the first set of bone crunching pot holes to avoid. All good so far.

Then I was out of the village, and on the long slight incline that drags me through a beautiful valley out towards the mountains further north. Last year I had come to hate this road, it was always a tough warm up or a tough last few miles after a tough hill session. This time it was still equally hard going, especially on legs that had almost forgotten what to do.

But it was warm. The evening sunlight was beautiful. After all the rain we’ve had this year, the grass was a brighter green than I’d seen for a long time. The lambs are no longer so tiny. There are calves now. The horses are braving the weather without their winter jackets.

As I pedalled along, I noticed I had company just behind my wheel. We chatted about where we were off to. I explained I was out for a steady one, getting my legs back into the habit. He was out for a few hills in the evening sun. It was good to share a few stories, but I was a little conscious I would be holding him back pace-wise. I wished him a safe ride and waved him on.

It turned out our route was very similar. I followed him up a short but sharp hill on my regular circuit. The Devil’s Elbow was shorter and considerably less sharp than I remembered. I wouldn’t have held him back at all.

We didn’t speak again, but as he turned off ahead of me, he gave me a wave. I was grateful for the company up the hill, and it reminded me of those long and terrible yet exhilarating hours climbing Ventoux with my Dad last year.

My heart still bursts with pride and tears prick my eyes when I think of that trip and what we managed to do in that short space of time, and the state I was in riding through that gorge and that lady that waved at me when I was about to give up and melt into the tarmac. Everything felt small and dull and inconsequential for a long time after I got home from Ventoux. I guess that’s a story for another day too.

The weeks are flying by. My bike has been in the corner looking at me, vying for my time along with the harp, my motorbike and my running shoes.