In order to break the link in my mind between cycling and the drudgery of my commute, I decided to go for a lunchtime cycle ride today: just for fun. I’m too tired of a weekend to do anything as extreme as an audax or a sportive, but I felt that a quick trip out at lunchtime would be just the ticket.
It had been a cold, bright, icy morning; since then, the air had warmed up somewhat and the sun had come out in force: for January. After a cold start, and going up and down a few hills, I came through a chicane into almost deserted village and up onto the long, high road that overlooks the River Evenlode and railways line. Cycling along this unexpectedly nice stretch of road is a bit like taking a glider down the river valley. Between the sun and the tarmac the feeling of motion spreads itself out, like a smear, a hum, smoothly rolling from point to point. The bright sunshine mellows everything out and your wheels just just spin.
There was a faint mist, and the incursion of hills—especially the slightly glowering frown of ploughed hillsides—on my horizon reminded me dimly of my youth, spent as it was in the foothills of the Pennines with their rather more grimacing landscapes. I stopped for photographs that wouldn’t come out, as the sky darkened the ground or the ground bleached the sky, and a train rattled by at the bottom of the valley.
Turning towards the valley, the route dropped to a railway bridge, then climbed, then dropped again, down to a flat valley that brought me near to a Roman villa I’d initially thought of visiting, but left me still a little too far away to make in a lunch hour. So I turned mostly around, climbing a different hill to move along the other side of the river valley. At the top of the first, steep slope I had a little something to eat and thought on the view; but I got colder and colder until I had to head back.
Not far from the office, I suddenly realised that I was looking at part of the route of my old slog to and from Eynsham, some ten miles of hilly hurt. But from this angle, with this attitude, and with a reasonably light heart, I felt it looked completely different. So, much as with the rest of my journey, I found myself seeing things from a different perspective. When I got back to the office, I felt more like I’d only been out for a breath of fresh air; which I suppose I had.