The View from my Bike


A Field of Flowering Rapeseed

There is something in the freedom of the road: it brings out the dreamer in me.

Freshly cut grass, sunshine and birdsong have prompted the first annual outing of my bike from the rickety garden shed. Tyres pumped, WD40 sprayed, helmet dusted off and I am ready to go.

There is no better way to travel the countryside than a bicycle in low gear. There is the little matter of pedalling every now and again, but, in effect, you are an armchair traveller whizzing through a multisensory three dimensional film.

All around me an intensity of greens fly past, broken only by little delights: a red-doored cottage, a lichen-covered stone wall, or-my favourite- a ditch clustered with creamy primroses.

As always, I wonder about the stories the landscape holds. A mound in a field may well be Neolithic and its stones may hold tales from thousands of years. The land farmed then, is land farmed now, the cattle and sheep possible descendants from the  livestock  then. And the river, wending its way through the pasture as it has wended for all eternity varying its route only on the whim of Nature or the hand of man.

Along the roadside, the stone cottages tell of a time when the landlord ruled and the tenant farmer paid his rent with the toil of his entire family.

And the plain two storey farm dwelling set in among the fields tells of a family who may have farmed there for generations.

Some houses lie in ruins, bramble and ivy springing from their stones, and perhaps, a lilac or a currant bush telling of a time when the woman of the house tended the garden and kept the fire in the hearth ablaze.

Five miles done and already I am imagining a week like this. Just me, the bike, two panniers. I did it before. A week in Clare. I still recall the delight of whizzing along the coast, mountains or rock to my right and the never-ending swathe of wild Atlantic to my right.

There is the little matter of that being thirty years ago. But still…

Overhead the sandmartins swoop and dive. They are the first members of the swallow family to make it to our shores and a very sure sign that summer is on its way.

Two pied wagtails bicker on a bungalow gutter and a cat pounces into a hedge prompting a swift alarm call from a startled blackbird.

If I were running this route I would see all of this though the labour intensity of the run might colour the joy a little. But the running means I can cycle for longer too. Its a perfect partnership.

I wonder how much I could cycle every day. Forty miles? Fifty maybe? I’d like enough time to stop for a while and explore stone and plant and river. Enough time to picnic on a warm rock overlooking the sea, or amble into a café for some local fare.

I have no recollection of any of these details from thirty years ago. Only the Clare scenery remains embedded in my memory.

Thirty years on and, of course, I would blog about it. And take photographs. Already one pannier is filling with ipad and wire and cameras and lenses…

And the road rambles on. Occasionally, a two tonne ball of metal hurtles past leaving me shuddering in its wake. I have been that motorist speeding past the unsuspecting cyclist. I ruefully reflect on how biking can complement driving too: it takes doing one to understand the other.

The sun is sinking lower on the horizon now, and the sky teases with faintest peaches and buttery yellows. I am heading into dusk and miles from home.

In all my pre ride prep, I had failed to attach a light to the front of my bike. I pedal faster.

What else would I need to think of for a longer road trip? Punctures. Could I fix one? Nope. Chain breaks? Snookered there too.

By now the faster pedalling and the fear of becoming roadkill were beginning to take their toll. The gears-never a strong point on my horse of a bike-juddered uncertainly and threatened to dislodge the chain as I hit an uphill swoop. Even the passing acres of glorious rapeseed yellows were losing their appeal.

I wondered about the Teens in my supposed week long absence. Sure, their independent living skills are coming along. But what if-and I had heard other parents’ tales of horror-what if their skills extended to opening beer cans and having what Teen Son tells me is called a ‘Gaff Party’? And what if the house were thrashed? Or someone died?

I am exhausted by it all and I already have fears that two panniers will not accommodate my worldly needs for one week. Maybe I should just be happy with what I have enjoyed this day.

Sixteen miles done. Cross training sorted. And I am home.

Pleased with myself I wrestle off my helmet and Teen Boy looks out from behind his laptop.

“Mum,I’m hungry”, he says with a smile.

Yes, I am home.