Friday, 22 January 2021

Cycling

 I have always been a cyclist.

Sometimes, especially when I was younger, my bicycle was my sole means of transportation, and even in mid Wales, I managed most of a year without a car.

And even when my bicycle hasn't been my sole means of transportation I've continued to ride my bike - in York and Canberra I rode to work, especially in the summer months, and even when I didn't ride to work I would sometimes simply go and ride my bike for the sheer fun of it.

In York, there was a deep pleasure in threading one's way cross country through lanes and byways, and discovering little visited medieval churches and hidden villages.

In Canberra it was a little different. Seemingly a vast beige sprawl, cycling took you down side roads away from traffic and to small suburban wildlife parks and reserves, or out to bush on the edge of the city.

But for the last few years I've been riding less than I thought I would.

Living within walking distance of the town centre, of the post office, our favourite cafes and the supermarket, there's been less need to get one's bike out to run errands. While I still have my old clunky looking Kuwahara that I used as my daily ride in Canberra - clunky, scarred and unlikely to be stolen, it's mostly lived in the shed for the past few years. 

I must admit I feel guilty about not riding it and really I should find somewhere more accessible to store it, so that again, I can use it to go collect the mail or pick up a loaf of bread.

Recently, I've taken to getting up at first light and going for an early morning ride round Beechworth, while the day's still cool, cold even.

This started as something to do during the various coronavirus lockdowns when we couldn't go bushwalking or to the national parks.

For these morning rides, rather than my Kuwahara (which I famously bought nearly thirty years ago for £15 in York from a Brazilian postgrad who wanted rid of it as he was going home), I've been taking my now twenty five year old Marin trail bike, which, thanks to a new chain set, rides as well as ever. 

Gradually, I've been riding further and further as my strength and stamina increases, and have reached the point where I've beginning to explore the network of tracks and backroads around Beechworth that connect old gold diggings, and have been rewarded with some stunning views of birds and native wildlife in that magic hour between sunrise and when people start going about their business.

It helps that, being relatively silent, even on a gravel road, you can sneak up and get a decent view of the animals before they realise you're there.

It's a strange thing, but it has been the pandemic that has helped me rediscover the pleasure of cycling and exploring by bike ... 

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