Guest Article: What The Bike Means to Me
It is less than a week from the longest night of the year for us lucky cyclists in the Northern hemisphere. Articles about lighting systems and losing form are what we cough up. @Strathlubnaig has even shorter days than most of us, works at sea, gets out on the bike and writes about it. Rule #9 or not, when is it ever a bad idea to ride a bike?
Two weeks offshore, trying to save an oilfield. I return to the beach and try to remember where I parked the car. Driving home I notice not much has changed since I left except there are even less leaves on the trees, more mud on the roads, it gets lighter later and darker earlier.
I arrive home in the dark, but my thoughts turn to The Bike. I check the forecast, and the following day is to be commuter chaos they say, windy and torrential rain, more floods they say.
Perfect day for a bike ride then.
In the morning it takes forever to get light. It is bad enough at 56.5 North at this time of year, but the Great Cloud Belt which can seem to perpetually hang over us like some Biblical Punishment makes it seem worse. In fact, it is worse.
I pull open the closet door under the stair where my kit lives. I pull out some bibs and a jersey, then look at the twilight-like conditions and change the jersey for a slightly brighter colour. Safety first. The kit is clean and laundered, it smells fresh and hopeful, full of optimism. It is around 8 degrees out, so a merino undershirt goes on too, and a pair of Ron Hills over the top of the guns.
I dig out the spare tubes and the little tool kit and slip them in my back pockets; tubes in the right, tool in the centre, phone in the left. Out the door I go and into the garage where The Bike sits, waiting patiently and stoically like a loyal Edinburgh terrier, unmoved and untouched for two weeks. The small meter still has the last ride on screen. That seems like an age ago. Using the track pump I check the tyres and stick a bit of wind in. I spin the pedals and the chain flows through the cogs smoothly and silently. All is in order. Helmet and glasses on, I wheel her out and down the drive, clip in and away. How will my legs be, I wonder. Two weeks of gym bike on the rig, not the same at all.
There is a fine feeling of comfort and joy. It is raining, the sky is sombre and low clouds scud across our nearby mountains, pregnant with more rain. Bring it on. Down the road and I head off the long straight which leads to the first climb. My mind slips deftly like the gear changes into ride mode. Work issues, family troubles, general worries and other concerns always exist but for the next two hours such things will be dulled and even forgotten. Riding The Bike is like codeine and I am grateful to be back.