I ride my local trails as often as I can over four seasons. The experiences in these distinctive seasons are all so different, but all good. Whether it’s swerving through swathes of spring bluebells, creating dust clouds in summer, slicing through the mud in autumn, or that magical sound that only the crisp firmness of tyre on a thin layer of snow gives in deepest winter. They’re all experiences that are as essential to my very existence as the air that I need to breathe.
In all four seasons there is a particular constant that defines me. No matter how much I enjoy riding with my mates, there is nothing that I like more than riding on my own on an early morning, before the rest of the World (well, my part of it) has woken up, one on one with the trail. There is nothing more satisfying than working out a puzzle yourself e.g. a rocky descent or ascent that has always foxed you, rather than blindly following a more skillful rider and winging it through luck not finesse. Worse still, being shown that the obvious line to take had been staring you right in the face.
During these solo riding times I am reminded that we are guests of nature, not masters as we often try so desperately to be. My only back up plan my mobile phone that connects me to the outside world if needed.
My favourite weather condition is when there is a slight mist. At these times, I am caught right in the moment, with enough of the trail appearing as needed. As a result, I am able to relax and flow through the trail, rather than constantly worrying about the parts of the trail that scare me, that sans mist I would be able to see looming in the distance before I get to them. Often, as a result, I flow through these scary sections too, as I haven’t had enough time to bottle out of taking them on.
I am very fond of the Shipping Forecast, and it is easy for me to daydream about a new addition to it: ‘Farley, moving clockwise south westerly. Surrounded in slight mist. Moderate to rough’
Occasionally, I am lucky enough to glance deer through the trees, caught in these clear snapshots before they take flight and the mist engulfs them again like ghosts.
Before the hordes arrive, it’s just me and nature. This time is precious, timeless and magical. It is like I have managed to succeed in freezing the rest of the human race before they are allowed to noisily reappear back into mine and my local woods’ reality.
Within this, I’ve always resisted the temptation to wear an MP3 player when cycling, as I’m creating my own soundtrack on these sun just came up escapades. In this natural soundtrack there is no interference from the drone of distant factory noises, or the close up squeal of car brakes, the honking of horns, or the jockeying competition of blasts from car stereos. The only music I’m dancing to on my bike has a certain hypnotic trance like quality to it – made from the repetitive turning of my cranks with the orchestral accompaniment of the sounds of the flora and fauna.
If only I could resist the temptation to ride with everything but the kitchen sink on my back, maybe then I’d feel even closer to nature.
Recommended listening: The Shipping Forecast, BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service:
Recommended reading: ‘Attention all Shipping’ by Charlie Connelly