It’s at around the 2 mile mark when I’m aware that I’m not thinking about what I’m doing anymore.
It’s the Buzzard that flies overhead, matching my speed so it seems to be hovering above me, almost within touching distance, giving me a few moments to take in the beautiful markings of it’s underbelly.
It’s the other cyclists passing me, giving me the nod in acknowledgement of our shared experience, underlining that we get each other, we get why we’re doing this.
It’s focusing on the middle distance, positioning the bike to avoid the gravel up ahead that’s been washed into the road by the drizzle, where there may be tiny sharps.
It’s the mind space – noticing the smells of farmyards, cut hay in fields and cooking wafting out of kitchen windows.
It’s applying the right amount of effort, keeping the cadence of the pedal consistent and thinking ahead as to the best gear to approach the next looming hill.
Its about that one hour or so when I am alone, in my thoughts, in my body. Answerable to no one.
There is a flat spot on the road, about a foot in from the kerb, where years of passing traffic buffs the tarmac to a smooth shine, that’s where I want to be, where the least resistance is to my efforts. That’s where my bike and tires want to reside. That’s the place I seek to get to as often as possible in my life. Moving forward, under my own volition, totally, happily, immersed in what I’m doing.
Before work, dad-dom and responsibilities grew, I used to cycle at least three times a week. Then, like many others I was too tired, too busy, too lazy to put on the lycra. But this came with a cost. Not only did I notice my energy levels falling, but my general sense of self seemed to be declining. Cycling was part of my identity.
So I took small steps, firstly to put a child seat on the back of my old mountain bike, so I could go out again with my wife on her bike and our small passenger behind me. Then, we moved to a tag along bike, bought used and slightly battered for £25 to allow said small passenger to start to learn to peddle, lean into bends and begin to enjoy the feeling of swift movement, like flight, that cycling gives us both.
Finally, I had to just decide to make the effort. To get the bike out, get the gear out and force myself out of the door. Just once.
Then again, I repeated it.
And I’ll continue this onwards. Building up my strength again, building up my health, giving myself that necessary headspace to come back from a ride, sweating, shattered, but full of energy, optimism and achievement. And coming back like this, is what allows me to be a better dad, better husband, better man.
I’m not the fastest cyclist in the world. I’m not super fit. I don’t ride to beat anybody else or to compete. I ride because it not only makes me feel alive, but makes me more alive.
In short, riding makes me better.