Today was one of those days I hadn’t much energy to ride, but also one of those days when I knew a ride would do me good.
I could put my fatigue down to mid-January blues, though it’d be more truthful to admit I’ve overdone it on the turbo trainer which I pulled out for the first time this winter on Monday. I’ve since done three evening sessions on the trot. Because I aim to ride faster this year, and to have a pop at bunch racing, getting on the turbo was overdue.
But frankly I was forced into it, because my winter bike is being fixed. It’s taken a pounding these last few months, so I’ve handed it over to our local mobile bike mechanic, Colin Stones. For someone who rides so much I’m dreadful at looking after bikes, and Colin saves me having to improve.
I’ve timed my bike’s absence well – it coincides with a cold snap in which it’d be tough to get out for long rides anyway. That said, snow is forecast, so road riding might prove tricky a while longer yet.
But once I’d set it up, in my first rush of enthusiasm for the turbo trainer I probably went too hard too soon. And the effort’s left me jaded and below par.
When like today I don’t feel like riding but know a ride will do me good, I go for an easy ride. An easy ride brings the pleasures of cycling but without the stresses; it leaves you feeling restored, not depleted. Amongst racing cyclists they’re called ‘recovery rides’ (though I think calling them that misses something).
I’ve found simple ways to keep rides easy. I stick to well-worn, familiar ground, close to home, and aim to ride for little more than an hour. And partly to trick myself into getting out the door in the first place and partly to prevent my getting ‘serious’ once I’m out, I include a couple of bike-based jobs.
Those jobs include taking our empty Tetra Paks to the nearest recycling centre, making local deliveries (rather than using the postal service), and shopping of various sorts. Today it included buying eggs and nipping into the supermarket for tonight’s tea.
With my usual bike out of action, my race bike on the turbo (and strictly speaking not for riding at this time of year anyway), I took advantage of the need to use my mountain bike by planning a little loop which is often muddy in parts.
The best way south to open country from where we live takes you along an off-road route parallel to the west coast main line and through a little snicket which either side of its narrowest part has signs commanding ‘CYCLISTS DISMOUNT’. I find these signs so offensive I’m surprised I’ve never stopped to take them down.
I’ve passed this way thousands of times without dismounting; I slow down and stop for any pedestrians to pass through, but to dismount and push would turn me into a wider obstacle for longer time. I’m courteous but the signs make me deviant, and people sometimes tut-tut.
I ride twice under the railway and onto Aldcliffe Lane which runs beside the canal. This stretch of road has recently become part of a 20 mph zone. There are signs saying so, but I’ve yet to see many motorists stick to the new limit; some race down here at twice that speed.
Does it make me a hypocrite to think that rules designed to civilise motorised traffic should be enforced and obeyed, whilst those which govern cycling result from prejudice and discrimination?
A small hill separates the canal from the Lune’s estuary. I ride over it and through Aldcliffe village to join the route to Glasson Dock. This is a favourite stretch of off-road riding.
There’s a picnic site a short way down. We’d often stop when the kids were younger. We’d spot its location far ahead from the power lines above, stretched between pylons which march across the landscape from the square block power station on the western horizon. Making it to here was a victory we’d celebrate with a treat. These days we could zoom past without a second look but often still stop, for nostalgia’s sake I think.
The route follows a disused railway along the Lune estuary. When ships became too big to reach Lancaster a dock was built at Glasson at the estuary’s mouth, with goods carried between city and sea by train.
This ride is full of birds; I see curlews, lapwings, redwings, long-tailed tits, swans, geese, ducks, herons, and – out on the mud – lots more whose names I don’t know.
Ice sheets across the track. I take childish pleasure in scrunching my way through the biggest bits. It makes me glad I’m on the mountain bike.
At Glasson I make a little loop around the village. It takes me up to higher ground and a view in all directions: south across the Fylde to Blackpool Tower; west to tiny Sunderland (which at high tide effectively becomes an island) and over Morecambe Bay; north towards the snow-topped Cumbrian fells and Yorkshire Dales, barely visible through the murk; and east over the M6 to the Forest of Bowland. Then it’s a quick descent into the village.
From Glasson I retrace my ride to Conder Green where I take the lumpy little road east via Sellerley Farm, for the eggs, to Galgate. The back road north from here runs tight between but higher than Lancaster Canal to the west and the A6 and railway to the east. With the Lancaster University cycle route which I join at Bailrigg it gives a quiet ride back into town.
I pop into Booths supermarket for food for tonight’s tea, then pedal the last miles home.
I’m still tired, but less so for the ride. A bike, any bike, lets you out the house on a difficult day; for an easy, restorative ride.