There’s nothing quite like traversing the country under your own steam. It is one thing to cycle a few miles to the office, but when you start crossing county lines, moving from one large town to the other that you start to realise you may be capable of so much more.
Following on from my Consolidation post, here’s a story about how the seed of an idea was planted in my head.
One mile at a time…
As I’ve alluded to already, I discovered cycling at a strange time in my life. I was in desperate need of a change, yet cycling to work seemed like the next logical step after walking and dealing with public transport. I picked up a cheap mountain bike from Argos (a retailer of electronics, homewares and non-food items in the UK) and started riding to work a couple of days per week. This snowballed into every day and it wasn’t long before I started browsing the bike shops and looking for something a bit more suitable for the roads.
I settled on a cyclocross bike –it was a halfway house between the sorts of mountain bikes I had grown up with …and a road bike. I spotted a nice Cannondale on a stand in the local bike shop and I was smitten.
A few months later and this cycling thing had become an obsession. I was going out for rides for fun, riding to visit friends and family, riding for the sake of riding. I even started going to cycling campaign meetings and chatting to other people who seemed just as obsessed as I did.
I met a chap named Dave. Dave led social rides every Thursday and he invited me along. Our first ride was a bit of a wakeup call for me. We rode from Cardiff to Newport, then around the back of Caerphilly Mountain. I found it hard going but thoroughly enjoyable.
Dave would tell me about these Audax rides he would do at the weekend. A long day, or several days on the bike, 200Km, 300Km and beyond. It seemed a little far-fetched to me at the time. I could never do something like that. Could I?
Each week we would go out after work, gradually increasing the distances, until one weekend we took the train down to Neath and cycled home over the mountains. Neath is just far enough away from here in Cardiff, about 40 miles following the route we did, that you know you’ve been for a good ride. The route included a nice big hill called The Bwlch, before dropping down through the Rhondda and back home again.
Suddenly the map seemed a lot smaller. Suddenly the idea of a 100Km, or even 200Km ride didn’t seem quite so far-fetched. Maybe there was life in these legs after all.
By this point I had booked a place on my first 200Km/124 mile ride to Gloucester and back. However, this is a story for another day. Dr Fosters Summer Saunter was just a few weeks away.