Reconnecting with cycling

One of the better aspects of the long and strange summer of 2020 has been rediscovering cycling.

We haven’t been away on holiday at all this year. We’ve had days out, been for lots of walks, done some decorating, DIY and gardening (a “staycation” in the true meaning of the word – but I’m not going to get into that debate!) One of the days out was a trip to Barnstaple with my son and daughter, to explore the Tarka Trail, a cycle path that runs along the route of the disused Barstaple to Bideford railway line.

The Tarka Trail is great for cycling, being flat and surrounded by gorgeous Devon countryside. There are also traces of the route’s railway heritage to be spotted. It helped that we picked a calm and sunny day – but I’m certain it would be stunning in any weather.

We hired ebikes from Tarka Bikes, who were extremely helpful, and conveniently located at Barnstaple Railway Station (handy for parking). We thought ebikes would be fun – and easier as we were all a bit out of practice. I was, in truth, a lot out of practice. I hadn’t been on a bike for at least 35 years.

They say you never forget how to ride a bike. Well, maybe you don’t forget, but I was very, very wobbly. I had to take the bike back to get the saddle lowered as I felt very insecure and just couldn’t get going. Once I was closer to the ground, I was able to start – and it was fun.

We had a glorious day riding alongside the Rivers Taw and Torridge. We cycled 9 miles to Bideford, and on the way back we stopped at Instow for our packed lunch, and at Fremington for an ice cream.

As far as the ebike was concerned – I found it heavy, and didn’t really use the power enough to get the best out of it. Eighteen miles was very ambitious for a first ride in three and a half decades – my sit bones were very sore for days afterwards. But – the cycling had captured me. So – there was only one thing for it – I had to get a bike.

I didn’t get a bike straight away because, hum, well, lots of people have been buying bicycles this summer. But eventually I got the bike I had my eye on – a very pretty sit-up-and-beg Pendleton bike in mint green. It’s not sporty, because I don’t intend to go fast. If I am a snail when running, I am a tortoise when cycling. Yes, visualise a tortoise trying to balance on a bicycle and that’s pretty much me.

New bike being checked out by the dog

I’ve been out a few times now, gradually building up my confidence, exploring more of my local area. It’s good to have a different activity to do on non-running days – and it’s good to have a different perspective. And, whereas running was a new thing for me, cycling is familiar and reconnects me with my past self. I left cycling behind some time around 1985. I’m enjoying becoming reacquainted.

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