I can cycle 500 days

I’ve now been cycling for more than 500 days straight. I can’t quite believe I’ve managed to do anything regularly for 500 days (apart from brushing my teeth) and I’m taking a moment.

Yes. It’s pretty awesome. I don’t really celebrate myself, or rather don’t even take the time to stop and think about celebrating me, but this time I am. I think I’m rather proud of myself. Although sometimes I do still think, what is this craziness?

I have been told at earlier points in my life that I have no willpower, no staying power, that I shift from thing to thing, that I don’t finish things. Well I think I blew that damn myth right out the water. I think 500 days of cycling definately is evidence of willpower.

And my way of celebrating was… you guessed it, a day of cycling and my fifth 100km ride of the year completed. I cycled the width of Scotland, ending at the Forth bridges. Returning to the place I once called home. I felt a wave emotion riding along when these iconic bridges came into view. Never did I believe I’d be able to do these kind of rides. I even managed to successfully mend a puncture on my tubeless tyre for the first time without any help. I was right in the middle of the Forth Road Bridge, so I just had to get on with it.

What does it really mean to do something every day for such a long period of time? Even in the midst of this massive achievement I still struggle with my motivation. Work has been busy and my energy has been low, probably the aftermath of catching a few bugs in March and April. I think what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t necessarily get easier. Some days all I want to do is jump on the bike and disappear, other days I could see it far enough or run out of time and have to opt for the indoor bike. But I’m still going.

Those times of lower motivation really do feel like going through a long dark tunnel. But what I’ve learned in these 500 days, is that I always come out the other end. Just like all the other struggles I have in my life, I believe there is light at the end of these tunnels. Sometimes I might need to rest along the way, but I know I can make it through. Everything is quieter in a tunnel and you have to sharpen your senses to the dark environment, you have to adapt.

Adapting is our human superpower. Sometimes you have to be prepared to get off your bike and walk. In life, I guess that means there are times when we need to tread carefully. Life presents us with tricky situations that require us to slow right down and take more care. We might need to learn more skills, or draw on the wisdom of others. In all the work I do I think people underestimate their capacity to adapt, grow, change. When they make their way through something that felt impossible to overcome, or the darkest of tunnels, and find their way to the light – well that is just an incredible thing to bear witness to.

The only question now is, can I cycle 500 more?


Riding through the darkness

Phew! I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks and I could say it’s been because I’ve been too busy, but I actually think I’ve been a bit avoidant. Last blog I was all excited about about my big charity cycle in London. And don’t get me wrong, riding 100km through London at night for very worthy cancer charities was totally epic. But there’s also some things about it that were hard to process.

It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done and I think if I’d been on my own I would have given up. But I was with my very good friend Jenny (she has given me permission to use her name, pictures and some of her story). We were nervous but both embraced the adventure of it all. We signed up months ago and all of a sudden it was here and there was no getting out of it. A real mixture of excitement and pure terror.

Reality hit us in the chaos of 1000 women riders ready to go. Even before we started we felt overwhelmed in the crowd. We had the odd good natured grumble, but once we were on our way, it seemed fine. After a couple of miles in we came across the first rider with a puncture. This was to become a regular feature of the night due to number of potholes and glass on the London roads. We wanted to help, so we stopped but quickly realised how much time this was taking, so left it to the support riders who were there to help with all that stuff. Really, we were flipping grateful it wasn’t us.

Then five miles in I had a hypo. Which was fine, we had to stop, I had to eat and wait for it to pass. This was all par for the course for me, but what wasn’t was the number of people who stopped to ask if we were okay. Yes, fine (for the umpteenth time) just keeping myself alive over here, move on, nothing to see. And this, is precisely why I don’t ride in groups.

The first rest stop was fun with cake and goodies, but we still hadn’t seen anything exciting because most of the route was outside of touristy London and was quite frankly utterly boring. Endless suburban streets with speed bumps, traffic lights and more potholes. And too many people. And too much cake in my belly. By the time we were half way round we were both saying, why the hell did we say we would do this? Tired doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt. As we approached central London we did get to spot a few landmarks, but then it was over and we were back on the suburban roads. Jenny’s crisp roll was probably the most exciting thing that happened all night.

I know I sound a bit churlish, probably because the experience was tainted by what came afterwards. It was a huge relief and sense of achievement to cross the finish line. And also we raised loads of money for a great cause. The atmosphere and camaraderie of 1000 women was really exciting and fun. It felt good to be part of something important. All those bits were great.

But when we finished at 5am, there was nothing to do but sit around in the cold for two and a half hours till we could get a train back to central London and head home. We were both working the next day (okay, terrible planning) but we were thoroughly miserable by the time we got on the train. Further exacerbated by the fact we had to haul our bikes and all our gear up steps and over a railway bridge at the stupid station which only had an entrance on one side.

The real downer was though that Jenny had a health scare days afterwards, very likely triggered by our ride and other factors. It was serious and I was so scared for my friend and a bit mad at myself that we had done the ride at all. Thankfully she is recovering well but it was a wake up call and could have turned out so differently.

Reflecting together afterwards, we’ve both had a lot of time to think. No we definately wouldn’t do that again but we are still up for sharing adventures. We realised we missed the things we both love most about cycling – taking our time, enjoying the views, stopping for coffee and cake, being in the countryside and away from crowds and traffic. And feeling alive! Not feeling half dead at the end of a cycle or even putting our health at risk.

It was a real shock to think about my friend being so unwell and potentially being in a life-threatening situation. I am so grateful for her life and grateful for my life too. I hope we both have many more years in us to cycle and have more adventures. Sometimes these things can actually help us live better and to be grateful for every beat of our precious hearts.

Let it all out

Every time I take a long train journey I am reminded of the Philip Larkin poem, the Witsun Weddings and that line: “and none, Thought of the others they would never meet, Or how their lives would all contain this hour.”

Travelling down to London for my big 100km ride through the night, I met an interesting collection of women. Travelling alone, you never know who you are going to be sitting with, so it’s a nice surprise when you meet some fascinating folk.

We talked about grief, writing, suicide, clutter, hoarding, babies and cycling. Before getting off the train one of the ladies gave me a generous donation for my charity cycle ride. I was deeply touched and humbled because she had told me her story of not working for many months due to a cycling injury.

As I arrived in London to a downpour of rain, I felt so much gratitude. I felt I learned something from these strangers’ stories. The hour, or hours, we shared together were purely by chance and yet I feel we changed each other and there was something serendipitous in the connections we shared. I have been so concerned with the what I’m doing this weekend, the cycling, that I’d lost sight of the why. These random conversations brought that back into sharp focus.

The thing that struck me most from our conversations was this experience of having grief blocked by well-meaning others. The need for unlimited weeping, pouring out grief instead of blocking it or holding it in, raging against the unfairness of death, sitting with the confusion without answers or solutions, these are so often shut down. Maybe we need to let it all out.

And blocked grief causes so many other problems. It becomes like a festering wound, seeping out in all sorts of unhelpful ways. Grief gets blocked in many ways, even comfort can block grief in its bid to stem the flow of tears. Hugs and hankies can block grief. Pats on the back, cheering up, taking your mind off it. They all have their place but sometimes I’m not sure we have the awareness that often our attempts at comfort are about us, and our discomfort. We see the other person in pain and we can’t bear it, so we want to take it away. But grief doesn’t need taken away, it needs to be felt, deeply, and moved through in your own time. There are no shortcuts and avoidance just takes us all to the same place eventually. Losing the people we love hurts and it hurts because we love. I don’t ever want to not feel love, so I accept that grief is part of it.

Ride the night London raises vital funds for women’s cancer charities. It’s a fun event, riding through London at night. But behind every rider sparkling with pink and fairy lights and tutus, will be a story of grief, of pain, of loss, of love. Sometimes grief is about weeping, sometimes it’s about doing things to try and counter-balance the hideous losses we feel, sometimes it’s about doing something to try and make the world a brighter place, if only for a night.

On a lighter note, London, what’s with all the rain? I was expecting tropical weather down here and I’m sorely disappointed. I hope it stays dry on Saturday night as I join hundreds of other women doing what they can to honour their grief and those they have lost to cancer and those who might be saved by funds raised for research and support.

I’m recovering from yet another yucky bug so hoping my spirit, body and legs are up to the challenge! And of course I couldn’t do this without the support of those who love me, especially ITOL (Incredibly Tolerant Other Half), who will be worrying about me right up till the final kilometre. Humble thanks to everyone who has donated 💜

You can leave your hat on

I went for a wee spin around the park with my adult son recently and was a bit taken aback that he thought he didn’t need to wear a helmet. Okay we were crawling around the park, among the pigeons, but that’s my job, to keep the offspring alive!

It also amazed me being out over the bank holiday, how many folk were out on their bikes without helmets. In the cycling communities there is a very polarised debate about whether helmets are necessary or not. For me, it’s a no-brainer! I would literally like to keep my brains inside my skull. But seeing as it came up and I’ve been pondering, I thought I should do some proper research and found some very surprising things.

Nerdy stats warning! Most cycling safety reports say that helmets can decrease the chance of a head injury by 60-85%. And that head injuries are the most common injuries for cyclists. In fact, a report on cycling deaths in New York City stated that 97% of of cyclists who died in accidents were not wearing a helmet. Figures from the rest of the world are about half and half. In the UK an average of two cyclists a week are killed on the roads and most in collisions with cars. Unsurprisingly the lowest number of cycling accidents are in places like the Netherlands where there is fantastic cycling infrastructure.

I probably don’t need to read a bunch of stats to know this, which is why I prefer to cycle where there’s absolutely no cars and on cycle paths. But sometimes I still need to go on the roads to get where I’m going. It all sounds pretty dangerous and terrifying, but even more interesting is the behaviour of car drivers towards cyclists.

A psychologist in Bath discovered that drivers actually give less room to cyclists wearing a helmet, and also to cyclists who are clearly visible as being women. The researchers concluded that if drivers see a cyclist with all the gear and a helmet, they see them as more competent and therefore under-compensate for potential accidents. You can draw your own conclusions about why motorists give women cyclists a wide berth. Most of the stats say that accidents are caused by either drivers and/or cyclists not looking properly, so maybe we all need new glasses, not just helmets.

I’m under no illusions that cycling can be dangerous, but stats are a funny thing. We can interpret them in all different ways. Think about the statistic that says in Scotland, two people die by suicide every day. That’s a heck of a lot more people than die in cycling or even motor vehicle deaths. So it made me wonder, what’s the mental health equivalent of a helmet? How can we help people stay alive? It’s a tough question and after almost 20 years of working in suicide, I don’t have any magic answers.

I think keeping people safe from suicide is much more difficult and complex than keeping cyclists safe. People come face to face with suicide for so many different reasons – some internal, some external. I think that increasing resilience, healthy coping mechanisms, good self care and access to therapy all act like helmets. But some people’s lives are simply awful, full of pain and horror and trauma, where life just doesn’t make sense any more. They’ve had the equivalent of a crash and the best helmet in the world can’t seem to protect them. Sometimes they recover, sometimes they don’t.

Helping someone with suicide is like travelling with them through a dark place, they often can’t find their way to the light on the other side. When you’re helping, you hang on to the belief that light is there, even if you can’t see it. You have hope for the person who has none left. And if you are doing that regularly, you need to find a way to take care of yourself. You need to put your own helmet on.

My mental health helmet is definately cycling and being outdoors. It increases my resilience, it brings me joy and meaning being connected to nature and to myself. It grounds me and gives me space and time to process. So I will make sure I’ve got my safety helmet firmly on my head – metaphorically and literally.

Adventure revolutions

I read a book last year called the Adventure Revolution by Belinda Clark. It resonated so much with every fibre of my being. With every page I read, I found myself shouting yes! This is what human beings were made for.

The book is full of stories about triumph over adversity and research and science about why humans need adventure, why we need adversity and uncertainty because our design dictates that. Without it we become mentally and physically unwell. Adventure is in our DNA. If you want to know more, read the book, but my take away is that survival is inherently risky, unpredictable, exciting, soul-nourishing and full of meaning. In our modern world survival looks different and is more often based on social survival than physical survival. The way we live now does not naturally give us opportunities for the kind of adventures we really need. So we need to create them and that can actually revolutionise the way we live our lives the rest of the time. It changed the way I think about the tough situations I face in my life.

Since reviving my cycling habit I have discovered many things about myself. When I set myself challenges that I have no idea whether or not I can complete, I thrive, I am forced to problem solve, to be creative, to soul search for the meaning in it all. When I only do the things I know I can do, there’s no opportunity for that. Not only is my body pushed to and beyond my limits, but so is my mind, so is my spirit and soul.

Of course, if things are just hard with no reward, that’s different. That’s the kind of adversity that makes us unwell and burnt-out. That’s why it’s not adversity alone that’s helpful but when it becomes an adventure, then the magic happens. Being cold and wet isn’t fun, but if you get to the top of a hill with an incredible view then it is. If you find yourself completely alone in the woods with birds chirping and a beautiful gentle deer runs in front of you, then it’s worth it. If you get to the end of a tough cycle or walk or climb and feel proud of yourself, then it’s worth it.

I find my adventure revolution with each revolution of my bike wheels. I find it on the new paths and trails I’ve never taken before, I find it at the top of difficult rides up hills, I find it in forests, I often find it when I’m alone because I have to answer my own questions and find my own way out of things. But adventure in groups can be even more thrilling. Everyone has different skills, strengths and unique ways of thinking about things. When we work together with people who are different from us we can overcome so much more.

Can you incorporate more adventure into your life? It doesn’t have to be huge like climbing Everest. Adventure can be found by going down an unfamiliar street or path, by following a road all the way to the end, by trying something new, even sticking your feet in the water near where you live could be an adventure.

Adventure can bring joy into your life. Stay safe, but not too safe. In the suicide intervention training I deliver, we talk about safety and challenge being the two sides of learning. It can be hard to find the balance, but when we do, it can be incredible and transformative.

Do the Hokey Cokey

Cycling on the indoor bike is a bit like doing the Hokey Cokey but there’s less of the in and out and mostly just shaking all about. Good sports bra, that’s all I’m saying.

I’ve had to relegate myself to the indoor bike mostly this week as the lurgy saga drags on. ITOL (Incredibly Tolerant Other Half) is gradually becoming less tolerant of my incessant whinging about still be unwell. I think he likes it better when I’m caked in mud, because at least I’m smiling. I find being unwell immensely inconvenient and irritating, especially when you are almost okay again.

I’m calling it the lurgy limbo. I’m not sick enough to not be at work or do almost anything that I normally do but cycling outside is so hard when your lungs aren’t quite right. Plus I need to be near the bathroom because coughing uncontrollably makes me pee myself. Having children wrecks your pelvic floor and I don’t care what anyone says, no amount of funky exercises can fix that. If you are cycling outside there’s always bushes of course, but it’s still winter and everything is bare. No one really needs to see my bare…

Speaking of bottoms, the indoor bike is not the friend of your bottom. While everything else is shaking all about, your bottom doesn’t move. This is usually not that big a deal for an hour on the indoor bike. However, I was still determined to get my 100km ride done this month and my only option was the indoor bike. All I can say is that I didn’t realise your arse could actually cramp up like that.

If I’d tried to do my big ride outside, I suspect a stretcher and oxygen tank might have been required. Now in week three of the lurgy saga, it was indoor bike or give up my goal for the year to cycle a gran fondo metric century every month. So I did it.

Right at the end of the month, I felt like it was make or break. Purists might think this is cheating, but I can assure it is just as much of a mental challenge, maybe even more so. With a moving time of just under 4 hours, it’s quicker than an outdoor metric century. You are moving at the same speed, there’s no dogs or pedestrians to slow down for or dodge, there’s no long slow hills, unless you have a fancy turbo system. It would be so easy to just get off the bike and sit on the sofa. There’s no nice scenery to look at. It’s a lot less exciting and therefore more of a mental challenge to stick it out. Plus your backside hurts like hell. But I did it. And I’m pretty damn chuffed about that.

I have still managed to get outside for wee walks because without that I would truly go stir crazy. If I don’t get outside at least once a day, my mental health suffers. I need that connection with nature to stay connected to myself. The bug will pass like everything does and I’ll be back to doing my longer outdoor rides. I can’t wait! Next stop will be London at the end of April for the Ride the Night charity 100km for women’s cancer charities. Adventures await. For now, it’s back to the indoor bike and walking in the good old Scottish rain.

Parallel process

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This week has been a tale of two very different states, as opposed to a tale of two cities. It has felt like a tale of triumph and defeat running in parallel. While my body has felt in a state of defeat, the rest of me has felt elated and energised.

The Wallace Monument, Stirling

I’ve been struck down by some sort of lurgy (a bug, for non-Scottish readers). A delightful throat, cough, congestion combo that’s left me feeling utterly depleted. But I couldn’t just take to my bed and feel sorry for myself as I was committed to delivering training this week, and to be honest, I didn’t feel that bad on and off throughout the week, probably adrenaline took over. It was more annoying than anything else, and disrupted my sleep which is not ideal on a busy week like this one, when we are working 16-hour days. Where it hit me hardest was not having the energy to cycle more than a few miles every day, or night, because in the busyness of this week, some of my cycles were squeezed in before bed.

I’m not used to having this depleted energy for cycling. I didn’t like it one bit. But I have tried to take some learning from this. Lots of us can get stuck in all or nothing thinking. Like if I can’t get out for a decent ride, then I won’t bother going at all. Well I’m still cycling every day, but I had to accept that if I wanted to continue that with my low energy then I’d also have to accept that a mere mile was good enough.

So I did cycle for just over a mile one night and I was going so slowly, it felt like returning to the beginning of my cycling journey. It’s just as well I was going slow though as I had to navigate through a crowd of jumping frogs who had unleashed themselves all over the path. If I’d been doing my usual speed, I would have left a trail of squished frog bodies in my wake.

I also got to experience a beautiful slow sunrise, dodging squirrels, ducks and swans. And took myself up a big hill to visit the historic Scottish landmark of the Wallace Monument. That was a very slow hike-a-bike journey, hardly any miles, but worth it for the view and the feeling of connection to my ancestors and their battle for freedom.

So maybe I could find some kind of freedom this week. Free myself from expectations about cycling a certain number of miles, or being at the top of my game all the time. Sometimes I’m just not, and I have to find a way to be okay with that, especially when it’s completely outwith my control. This week also provided a lesson in freeing myself from only relying on me. I’ve had to rely on other people this week to support me in many different ways. And I feel grateful for having incredible colleagues by my side, willing to let me lean on them when I needed to. I find that challenging and freeing myself from stubborn self-reliance is enlightening.

This week’s training was about suicide intervention and training up new trainers. This kind of work is something you can’t do alone. People have to work together to create safety. In this line of work, if you try to go it alone, no one is safe. We need each other. Knowing that I need other people is a strength, not a weakness. In fact, when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and to be supported by others, you get to witness the magnificent compassion and generosity of their spirits. You get to see other people be the truly beautiful humans that they are. If you insist on going it alone, you never get to experience that.

So this is my elation, literally being lifted up by the beauty, joy and strength of those around me. What an honour. And if, because of this work, many more people are able to support those struggling with suicide, then I also feel honoured to be a part of that.

Perspective is everything

This week’s blog is powered by feet and just a little bit of wheels. Where I live there’s a castle at the end of my street, which is exceptionally cool. But it’s been shut for about a year with safety work getting carried out. It finally re-opened and I was so excited to get back up there. It’s a big climb with hundreds of steps, so there’s no way I’m hiking my bike up there without an oxygen supply at the top. So back on two feet instead of two wheels.

I actually love walking too, it’s just hard to fit in a walk and a cycle every day. The castle is the same as always, the history and stories are so familiar to me I guess that bit isn’t as exciting as it is for those visiting for the first time. What I love most is the view from the top. I can see my house and I can see my whole town and way up the River Clyde in both directions. I can see the hills up towards Loch Lomond. It’s those views that I find exciting.

Especially seeing my town from up there, I get a new perspective on where I live. My sense of space is altered by being able to see the whole thing. So different from looking up my street or just seeing things in front of you from the ground.

You can see patterns in the streets and things that seem huge from the ground become smaller and in proportion somehow. People often talk about the bigger picture, but it’s hard to grasp that when you’re on the ground. You literally have to change your perspective.

In psychology I find that existential exploration does that for people. We get so focused on the problem we have right now, in this moment on the ground we can’t see how it all fits together, what it means in the context of our lifespan. But if you have someone to help you metaphorically get up a hill to view your life in its entirety, you can begin to see what it all means, make sense of it.

You might be able to see something beautiful, some strength that survived the storm of your life. You might be able to see how the terrible unfair things that have happened to you, have transformed you in ways that you didn’t even realise. We call that post-traumatic growth. I feel like that about my diabetes sometimes. Right now, in this moment, I’m struggling to regulate my blood sugars. But if I look at the bigger picture, wow! I’ve been keeping myself alive for almost 30 years from a malfunction in my own body that is literally trying to kill me.

Cycling every day is part of what is helping me to stay alive, to be healthy and strong and to manage my diabetes. It’s still really frigging hard to do that some days. But when I go up that hill at the castle and see that view, I can see all those roads and hills and forests that I cycle every day. I can see what I’ve achieved and for a moment, just a moment, I feel in awe of that.

We are stronger than we think we are.

Girls just wanna have fun

I couldn’t let this week pass by without writing something to celebrate International Women’s Day. Having unintentionally entered this world of cycling, I find myself in the midst of yet another thing that is mainly dominated by men, but also a place where I have connected with the most remarkable women. I’d like to celebrate them here.

When I began my first career in journalism, many many years ago, it was absolutely a male dominated environment. Girls had to be tougher, smarter, faster and have very thick skins to survive in that world. Most of the women I worked with often had to fight for the chance to be taken seriously and write hard news stories and avoid getting saddled with fluffy feature pieces. The women I worked with were remarkable, inspiring and I had the utmost respect for them. I have found similar women in the world of cycling.

A bit like these wee daffodils blooming in a tough environment, I have been lucky to find communities of women cyclists who are tough and amazing and beautiful in so many ways. They are funny and smart, they can laugh at themselves and fix hard things on their bikes. They are wise and hardy and determined, achieving incredible personal goals. They are adventurous and brave and fierce. And they look colourful and fabulous doing all these amazing things. Sometimes they are even a bit mucky. I love that.

Do we get emotional, hell yes. Does that stop us doing things? Absolutely not. We have hormones and they can be a major pain the ass, especially at certain times of life, like menopause. It can leave you lethargic, agitated, anxious, gain weight and sometimes slightly homicidal. But we ride it out and those of us that do it on our bikes are extra lucky to find an outlet that helps with all of that.

There’s also a group of type 1 diabetic cyclists that I’m connected to. Men and women supporting each other to achieve their goals, so I do know that in some of these cycling spaces things feel a bit more equal. Cycling back from my diabetic clinic appointment on International Women’s Day this week, I felt a surge of gratitude and pride in the sisterly love and support that I find in so many places.

I also feel so much gratitude for the freedoms I have in the culture and era I was lucky enough to be born in. Things haven’t always been this way. In another era, I would never have survived as a single parent, working in a decent paid job and able to sustain myself and my family. Girls in other parts of the world don’t have access to bikes, or even education as well as other freedoms. Today I was riding with them in my heart.

Women are often weighed down by so many responsibilities and endless to-do lists that never get done. We are often the ones with caring responsibilities, frequently having to put the needs of others ahead of our own needs and wants. We work hard and don’t always get time to play and have fun. But that is so important to bring some balance to all the seriousness of life. Sometimes girls just wanna have fun ♥️

The open road

Does your soul ever yearn for the open road? That long stretch of straight and flat that seems to go on for miles. It breaks something open in me. I feel like one of those dogs or horses at the racetrack, champing at the bit to fly. The road speaks to me. I’m right here, come get me. It’s hell for leather time.

It’s exciting at first, but ironically it wears off. Because it gets boring when it goes on for miles and miles and miles. I’d like a corner please, a wee slalom, after a while I even start thinking about hills! Oh horror. I didn’t realise this until I hit this big straight flat stretch when I was cycling up in Argyll recently. Of course it wasn’t long before I had some hills to curse.

That longing for straight and easy is a bit of a fantasy. To say I’ve found life challenging lately is an understatement. And on top of that work has been so busy I’ve frequently had to opt for a night ride on the indoor bike. Menopause is screwing with my diabetes big time and it’s now making me itch so much I look like a dog with fleas, another delightful symptom. I frequently have the urge to scream at the world. I long for straight and flat and calm. Or do I?

Crinan canal, Argyll

Even though I curse it, I love the challenge of a hill, a muddy bumpy path through the woods, all the incredibly beautiful sights you don’t see on the straight flats. Variety and challenge gives texture to the landscape of a ride and to the landscape of our lives. It’s more interesting. It’s also more tiring. So a section of flat is a gift in the middle of a challenging ride, but a hill or a detour off the main route can also be a gift in the middle of a flat ride.

You never know what you might come across, what hidden gems you might find, like this funky wee lighthouse. A patch of delicate flowers, the sun glinting on a stretch of water, pretty birds you’ve never seen before, odd little signs with funny sayings. I feel like all these things feed my soul just as much as the turning of pedals and the miles clocked up.

Cycling is always about more than the miles. Just like life is always about more than those big achievements we set ourselves. The small moments that warm our hearts, make us stop and smile for just a moment, the things that make us giggle. They feed and nourish us and in a really implicit way they keep us going when things feel tough. I often feel like people are looking for some magic huge thing that makes life manageable. But I believe it’s in the micro-experiences.

And probably what we are all really yearning for is balance – balance between tough and easy, challenge and ease, turmoil and calm, hills and flat stretches.

Ooooh there’s the open road again…