Sometime in March, my good friend Mark started tweeting about something called 30 Days of Biking - intrigued, I took a look at their website & pretty swiftly signed up to their challenge: Ride your bike every day in April - it doesn't matter how far or how fast, just ride, then share your stories!
I ride most days anyway - my bikes are my only transport, and I ride the three-mile round trip to and from work four days a week, plus longer rides for fun, but that pledge to ride every day will challenge me a little - it's all too easy to get caught up in doing things at home on days off and not get the bike out of the shed.
Days one to three were quick dashes to and from town - for work on Friday and Saturday and some shopping on Sunday, a mile and a half each way, very routine, very dull (though oh boy, what a great way to wake up for a 7am shift - rolling through the local nature reserve just after sun-up! The birdsong is deafening at that time of day, and you have to dodge the rabbits on the path!)
Day four was a pootle down Sustrans Route 66 to visit my friend Rich's new house - a twenty mile round trip, with much cleaning, bike chat and eating of brownies in the middle.
Day five was more of a fun ride. I had to go to Harrogate for a meeting, and what better way to travel than by bike?
Not wanting to arrive at my meeting horribly grubby and sweaty I took the train there - the local service is pretty reliable and always has space for bikes. Meeting done, I stripped off my smart trousers & cardigan in the bike shed (hey, doesn't everyone go to meetings in Rapha jerseys? They're a damn sight smarter than most of my other clothes!), clipped in headed off home... The first five miles or so away from work's base on the outskirts of Harrogate are not much fun - busy roads, with drivers who apparently aren't used to seeing bikes about, coupled with some short, sharp hills. There was a certain amount of cursing at both of those things, but having the wind at my back made it all a bit more bearable - as did this sign, which always makes me smile:
There is one little beast of a hill, just north of Knaresborough, that took the full brunt of my swearing - it's not the steepness that really bothers me, I could (just about!) drop into my lowest gear and cuss my way up, but the traffic is just too heavy and too fast to feel safe, so off I got and walked up (even on the verge there were some cars uncomfortably close to my elbow.)
Not long after that hill my route left the main road and tacked cross-country through gently rolling farmland and a string of impossibly pretty villages, dropping down into the Vale of York.
A few of my favourite things:
- Spotting a red kite soaring over the fields. I'd never seen these magnificent birds before - no surprise there, they're a threatened species after all. I was absolutely stunned by how big it was. It's obviously hard to judge the size of a bird flying high above you, but this was vast - at least three or four feet from one wing-tip to the other.
- Fields full of lambs and verges full of flowers - it really does feel like spring is well underway now, I even rode in knicks and short sleeves for the first time this year!
- Hearing lapwings. Always, always magical.
- Going fast on a bike. My bike may be old and tatty, and I may be chomping at the bit for my new one, but it's still immense fun to freewheel down a big hill, or tuck my head down and sprint past the commuters on the final run-in to home!
- Rumbling over Aldwark toll bridge - a wooden-decked bridge over the Ouse. Best of all, bikes get priority over cars and don't have to pay!
- Riding through the deerpark (though sadly lacking in deer) at Beningborough Hall
- A quick farm-shop stop at Beningborough, and a chat with a friendly face:
- My new summer gloves: the cheapest gloves I've ever bought, at £2.99 from Lidl, but also the most comfortable by far. Riding an all-steel bike on rough road surfaces often leaves my fingertips numb within ten miles, but with all the gel-padding in the palms of these gloves the only time I had a problem with road-buzz was on the very harsh surface through Beningborough.
- A hot bubble-bath and a good stretch when I got home, not to mention the amazing pork, black pudding & onion marmalade pie from the farm shop for supper!
26 miles in 2 hours 35 mins, including walking up one hill, and stops to take pictures, shop and check that a broken-down mountain biker was OK!