Why Cycle?

We went out for a 15 mile bike ride this morning on our modern road bikes. We had expected it to be fine though cold but in fact it was quite mild and sunny – sunglasses needed for the first time in ages; the sun was right in our eyes on the outward journey, still being low in the sky. We passed the spot where a big beech tree was blown down across the road in strong winds a few days ago. The road had been cleared and the main trunk lay like a beached whale in the field beside the road.

While riding I found myself pondering why I like to cycle. Obvious reasons are for fitness and to get out in the fresh air. I have always had a bike but for various reasons have not always ridden a lot, not as much as I do now. I have also always enjoyed walking but my husband now has trouble with his knees and can’t walk very far so he prefers to ride a bike, which he can do without any problems. The result is either I walk on my own, which I do from time to time, or I go with him on my bike. Fortunately we are only a stone’s throw from open countryside which is great as it only takes a few minutes to get out beyond the houses.

Another reason for cycling is that you can see so much more from a bike than you can from driving in a car. You can notice seasonal changes, for example, much more easily as you travel at a slower speed. You can, of course, notice even more walking but you can travel further on a bike in any given amount of time so have greater scope for seeing these changes.

Today, apart from the felled tree and amongst other things, I noticed how the snowdrops are still going strong, I could see bright yellow crocus in gardens that we passed and how some daffodils are already in flower whilst other are still only just pushing through. We also disturbed a bunch of rooks who flew off with their raucous chatter, though I couldn’t quite make out where the rookery was. You also get to hear the birds singing, twittering, calling – something it is near impossible to do from a car.

We did also have to negotiate a flooded road from the recent rains, always a bit risky as you don’t know how deep it is or if any pot-holes are lurking in the murky water. It stretched the full width of the road and was some 20 – 25 feet wide. Hubby went first, the water didn’t come up much more than just over the wheel rims and there didn’t seem to be any hazards so I followed on, rather too fast I think as I ended up quite well splashed!

People often cite road safety as a reason for not cycling and traffic can be a problem – we have experienced many so-called ‘close passes’ when a passing car nearly brushes your leg then cuts quickly in front rather than wait to find enough space to overtake safely. A recent article I was reading on the subject in our Cycling magazine stated that those cycling at below 10 mph were at most risk and those who are safest cycle at above 12 mph. Where does that put us? We usually ride along at a comfortable cruising speed of between 10-12 mph! This is the best speed in my opinion to not cause other traffic too many problems and yet slow enough to enjoy the environment. There is an on-going campaign to educate drivers about cyclists and encourage them to allow 1.5 metres of space when overtaking. This will be included in future editions of The Highway Code, but still only advisory – in many European countries it is the law.

As we cycle along we often pass, or are passed by, other cyclists and usually try to catch their eye and give a cheery greeting. Sadly, many of those who cycle at the “safer” speeds of over 12 mph do not respond. The are simply focused on pushing the pedals round at maybe 16+ mph, eyes fixed a few feet in front of their wheels or on their cycling gizmos for recording their ride and its stats, quite often with earphones in their ears listening to heaven knows what. They are completely oblivious to the world around them and any enjoyment of their surroundings – surely this is a dangerous way to ride. All they seem to care about is beating their own, or somebody else’s Strava record for that particular route. Sad! They might as well stay on their turbo trainer at home.

To my way of thinking there are very few things you can do that costs little and enables you to keep fit whilst enjoying spending time with nature than riding a bike, especially if you take your time to look around you with awareness – after all, if there is something you want to take a closer look at, like when we saw a midday murmuration of starlings recently, you can always stop for a short while; it’s a good excuse for a rest!

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Flying Visit

Star Gazing Hare, CotswoldsLast week my daughter came over from her home in Spain to attend a course in the Lake District (not cycling related). She finished at lunchtime on Friday and wasn’t flying back until Sunday so with a couple of days to spare she was able to pay us a visit, which was wonderful and especially so as we didn’t know until almost the last-minute. She arrived mid-afternoon on Friday in her hire-car.

On Saturday morning we were able to fix her up with a bike (we’ve got plenty) and some cycling gear (she’s a similar size to me though taller and slimmer!) plus a spare helmet and, together with our youngest son we went off for a lovely bike ride in the morning. It was mild, fine and cool without being cold – a lovely Autumnal day. Our route took us around the lanes, through some local villages until we picked up the Stafford Greenway trail in Haughton and followed it along to Gnosal before once more taking to the lanes in order to return home. Becky had done the Stafford to Haughton stretch with us before (see here) so this was a new section for her. Maybe next time she’ll get to finish the trail!

The interesting thing about this bike ride is that daughter Becky (who blogs at Mad Cycling in the Midday sun), hubby and I all had cycle computers on our bikes and our son was using his Strava ap. – so when we got home and checked our mileage I made it 16.7 miles, Becky made it 17.9 and hubby made it 18.5. While hubby would like to believe his computer I think on balance mine might well be the correct reading since our son’s Strava ap. gave the same reading and since the ap. works on GPS ought perhaps to be the more accurate! It just shows how inaccurate these computers can be when there is a 2 mile discrepancy in the readings!

We finished off the day with the rest of the family – eldest son, daughter-in-law, grandson and youngest son’s girlfriend – enjoying an Indian take-away with us followed by apple crumble and custard for desert as requested by Becky, who obviously doesn’t get it very often back home in Spain. She left us again very early Sunday morning to catch her flight home from Liverpool airport.

Typically none of us thought to take any photos on our little bike ride so I have none to share with you, hence the handsome chap at the top of the page. The photo was taken in the grounds of the Cotswold Motor Museum at Bourton-on-the-Water, the venue for our ‘Old Pals’ reunion that I wrote about last week.

I later discovered from a free magazine that I picked up while we were there that he was part of the Cotswold Hare Trail. These hare sculptures were hidden around various villages in the Cotswolds and vary in size from five feet tall to less than nine inches. My chap is one of the five feet ones. The aim of the trail is to raise awareness of the Cotswolds AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). There were apparently 130 of them to find this year and anyone who found and recorded them all, taking a selfie with them, could enter a prize draw to win a blank five feet tall one to paint for themselves! This chap was the only one I found, and that was by accident as I was unaware of the existence of the trail. He actually seems to be from last year’s trail so was probably auctioned off then and is now a permanent fixture at his current location rather than being hidden. This year’s batch are due to be auctioned off this month.  Profits from the auction will be donated to Cotswold AONB projects.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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