If only everything in life was as simple as a bike ride.
My ride begins with leaving my house and locking the door before I realise I’ve left my helmet inside the house. With the amount of layers I’m wearing the whole shenanigans of getting my keys out again takes a lot longer than it really should. It is not until I get a few miles down the road that I realise I’ve also left my water bottle next to the kitchen sink, but it’s not a hot day, so I reckon I’ll be fine without it.
For the next few miles my thoughts are consumed with what I’m wearing – either too much or too little. If I’m wearing too much then there is the irritating inconvenience of stopping and taking off layers, but then having to carry them in my back pocket, leaving me looking rather less aerodynamic. There is a saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. My problem is not the clothing – I have plenty of good kit but I just never seem to wear it on the right days. On this occasion I’m in a right state. My fingers (despite the thermal gloves I’m wearing) are painfully cold, as are my toes, but my torso is cooking like a boil-in-the-bag chicken.
Once I’ve sorted out my wardrobe malfunctions my thoughts return to the ride. Checking my GPS I can see I am flying along like a machine. With my ever-increasing speed and my legs pumping away like pistons, I feel on top of the world.
I love cycling. All that recent training must be paying off and I smile to myself with a hint of smugness.
I always forget to eat on a ride and usually arrive back with a blackened banana still in my back jersey pocket, but not this time. I’m on top form and I don’t want to take an energy dip, so I open the cereal bar that has been lurking in my saddle pack for the last 12 months and take a bite. It is the sort of snack that with a cup of tea might just be edible. Without even a sip of water to my name sawdust would be easier to swallow. To add to my distress I have just hit the bottom of a hill and, out of breath, I open my mouth to try and gulp in more oxygen, but end up looking more like a wood chipper as I spit unchewed cereal bar all around me.
I have managed to clear my airway and have settled into a rhythm on the climb, but looking at my GPS my speed has dropped dramatically. Perhaps I’m not as fit as I thought. Surely that can’t be it. Maybe I’ve punctured; I look down at my tyres but they’re fully inflated.
I start to calculate times in my head based on my current speed and the length of the climb, hoping this will take my mind off my increasingly leaden legs. Maybe I set off too fast. I set myself a goal of reaching the big oak tree a few hundred metres ahead. Once there I promise myself a big swig of water as a reward – only, I quickly realise, I don’t have any water. I feel like Sisyphus, with a bike instead of a boulder, but eventually the summit comes. At the top it seems breezier than I had previously noticed and my heart sinks as it dawns on me that my earlier fortitude was in fact entirely tailwind assistance. Suddenly I wonder why I like cycling so much. Battling all the way home in a headwind is not fun, but I eventually make it home – bedraggled and weak, my spirit is at its nadir. Moments later I am sitting on my couch, cup of tea in hand, regaling to my wife and kids (who pretend to listen) how much I love cycling. “Anyone can cycle in lovely weather,” I tell them, “but a challenging skirmish in Scottish spring weather is character building.”
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Where to Ride? Strathardle – OS Landranger 1:50,000 Map 43, 51, 52, 53 & 58
Start/ Finish: Bridge of Cally NO 140514
Distance: 20 miles/ 32km approx
Suitable For: Road cycling
Description: Strathardle runs from Bridge of Cally to Pitlochry and bridges the gap between the A9 and the A93, skirting the lower edges of the Cairngorms. It is a wonderful ride whichever direction you take it and can be linked to many other routes to the east and west, or combined into a circular route that takes in Blairgowrie and Dunkeld.