May 10, 2014 by shortbloke
A while back TB and I rode out into the heart of the Hertfordshire hinterland. Then we rode back again. We rode a total of about 100K in the end, through some of the finest landscapes Hertfordshire has to offer.
We didn’t take in any sites. We didn’t visit any landmarks. Nor did we do any shopping. We did stop for a few minutes, on a small village green in a tiny hamlet in the middle of somewhere, which could just as easily have been nowhere. We idly speculated about what the locals might get up to of an evening for a few moments as we crammed some sugars and fluids into our bodies. Then, just as suddenly as we had arrived, we left.
When Mrs Short Bloke was young her family would sometimes go for a drive on a Sunday. The whole family would pile into the car, drive around a bit and then go home again. It was, I am reliably lead to believe, a popular way to burn a couple of a Sunday afternoon’s hours. Go out. Go nowhere in particular. Go home again.
In fairness, in those days of Sunday closing and daytime TV consisting largely of black and white Test Cards, there was little else to do, especially if the kids were watching.
In much the same way, TB and I rode our bikes around a bit and went home again.
The weather was stunning. There were beautiful vistas, spectacular rapeseed yellows, blossoming orchards and the deep rolling greens of what will later in the summer be pale yellow heads of wheat.
But despite all that, the best thing about that ride was that it hurt. It hurt a lot. We made good pace – just about 26kph. By the end I had sharp cramps streaking through my thighs, my shoulders were collapsing and my forearms smarting. Given it was the first long ride of the season, it was hardly surprising. But that pain, those sharp stabs and aching arms, that is what made it such a good feeling when we finally hit the rider’s cafe for the obligatory tea, 2 poached eggs, toast and slim-line bacon.
Without the pain, without the aching legs and sore arms, the whole experience is pleasant, enjoyable….. and bland. It’s the pain that makes it really worth doing. It’s the prospect of aching thighs that gets me out of bed.
Why, why is that ?
It’s because I know that next time I’ll be able to get round that same route slightly faster. Next time it will hurt a little less. Next time I will be stronger. And eventually, if I do that enough, I’ll be able to ride up a mountain again.
Where once roads that went up were the subject of fear and loathing, they are now the subject of unfettered desire. Riding up mountains has changed me. These days I am just as likely to have my head turned by the buxom curves of a strip of tarmac as I once was by the allure of a well formed female (naturally, Mrs Short Bloke is absolutely the only woman I would ever so much as cast a sideways glance at now).
Standing at the foot a big climb, captivated by it’s batting cats eyes, I find myself yearning to run my hard road tyres across it’s gentle curves, to rise and fall along the swell of it’s sweeping inclines, panting, hot and exhilarated as I hit the climax… of the distant summit.
Holding a new born child as it takes its first breath. The butterfly tingle of kissing a true love you have not seen for a whole 12 hours. Cutting a perfect S through virginal waste deep powder snow. Eating lemon grass for the first time (I might tell that story one day). These are all unique and indescribable pleasures.
Rolling over the climax of a proper mountain belongs on that list. It’s one of those unique experiences that cannot be properly understood until it is done in person.
And anything that feels a bit like that, even just a tiny teeny bit, is something that holds an uncontrollable attraction. And if it gets me a touch closer to climbing an actual mountain, a real one, well that’s even better.
If you don’t already know what I mean, go ride your bike for bit. Go somewhere, somewhere hilly. Then go home again. After a while, you may well find out.