I was staring at Claire’s wheel, transfixed on its every movement. Gem was on the front with her head down, pushing the pace and the limits we thought we had. Every stone, pebble or hole presenting a moment somewhere between control and disaster. When each thought and muscle is focused on keeping the speed and remaining safe for both yourself and the group, there’s little room for any other complications in life. Never are you more aware of what every part of your body is doing, or the speed at which every car is approaching. Everything was on hyper alert and with the pace continuing to increase and the road we were on seemingly never ending, I felt more alive than ever.
‘When I’m not riding, I feel like I’m missing out on life’ – unknown.
This weekend, we decided to ride over 140km to Henley-on-Thames and back. It was inspiring, challenging and wonderful. During the 5 hours 50 minutes of cycling, I noticed that with every moment that came and went so did a different emotion. As well as shifting the gears to deal with the change in gradient, I was constantly shifting my focus and experience.
From the buzz of chatter when riding next to each other on the quiet country lanes, to the forced silence that riding fast and focused in a peloton brings.
From starting to feel hungry and empty as the miles make their way through your calories, to the contentment after a halloumi sandwich at the half way stop.
From mentally and physically coping with the 13% gradient hill burn (that you’ve experienced so many times but always forget how painful it is), to the rush and freedom descending brings, to the relaxed and contentment of sitting down with a post ride shandy that tastes of reward.
From sitting in the middle of the group when the pedals almost feel like they are turning themselves to searching for that extra strength when your lower back starts to cry out for a seat which isn’t a saddle.
From experiencing the feeling of self doubt and concern bubble away in your mind, to the overwhelming excitement and gratitude when the team reassure you of your ability.
From losing all feeling in your hands as you ride through the cold fog to pulling over on the side of the road, with the sun beating down on your winter outfit, to take off additional layers and catch some Spring freckles.
From a lightness and laughter amongst friends to the serious conversations which always feel easier to share whilst riding. There’s no guards and there’s no judgment on the road. We discuss topics that don’t get airtime during our busy lives or worries that often stay trapped in the ’too vulnerable to discuss’ folder of our mind.
‘This too shall pass’
A life lesson that we continually get taught on the bike: to know that nothing is permanent, is to know we can keep going. Whether that’s the lactic acid in your legs half way up the hill or being surrounded by boxes that need unpacking when moving into a new home, the discomfort is only but a single mile in a 100 mile journey. Your gears (and experience) will shift again soon. And if that journey is even half as fun as our adventure to Henley this weekend, you’re in for one hell of a ride.
KEEP RIDING ON.
Camera used: MJU II 35mm
Route: 141km, 615m Elevation