Monday, 20 July 2015

Shap

Just a short one today because I only rode the last twenty miles of today's stage after driving back up from London. The contrast in modes of travel was interesting though, from the hecticness of the M6 to the tranquillity of bowling along through the Cumbria hills with that rarest of things, a tailwind, making the road roll smoothly backwards below my wheels.

There is a rhythm to cycling, in a very explicit and physical sense. Your legs have a natural favoured tempo and I fell back into mine with a strange sense almost of coming home to it. After a while they move in that tempo so automatically that a downhill section where you stop pedalling actually feels disruptive. And if it wasn't for the arse pain and an irritating bit of incipient tendinitis in my ankle I begin to feel as if my legs could carry on that rhythm indefinitely.

It's a pleasant feeling really, and after a time frees you up just to look around and to listen, and to let your thoughts drift. Listening is an interesting aspect actually, because another surprise has been how bloody noisy it is a lot of the time, so periods of relative quiet are particularly blessed.

When you cycle beside a main road (our route means we hardly ever cycle actually on one) the noise from the traffic is almost overwhelming. And it's not so much engine noise as a sort of incessant swishing rumbling roar from the tyre noise and wind of passing of the endless speeding vehicles.

Even away from main roads though, if you have a headwind then the roar of it in your ears drowns out any other sound and you can only converse in shouts, or more likely not at all. And even when there is no wind noise, cycles are rarely actually a silent mode of transport. There are the ticking noises from the gears, the soft swish of the tires on the tarmac, and the thin scratchy whisper of a chain in keep of oil.

But you can tune those out, and so when you're away from traffic and there's no headwind, and the gears are properly adjusted, and the garmin isn't chirping at you, and you're not freewheeling them you do get something like silence.

And finally you can hear the birdsong and the soft rustling of the creatures in the hedgerows.

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