As a winter reluctant to leave us has turned into spring, I've been getting to know my new bike. I can now do the twenty miles or so from our flat to my parents place in an hour and 45 minutes, which I consider to be a reasonable performance.
It's been interesting, returning to cycling after a few years away. I used to ride to work, back when I worked at the opposite corner of my town.
There are more cycle lanes, for one thing. Some of them are rather good, others are the usual array of pointless road markings whose only purpose is to help the council reach their sustainability target. I find I can use the good ones and minor roads to the extent that the whole twenty mile ride has only a few hundred yards shared with heavy traffic.
I can't say I'm impressed with my fellow riders though. I guess I've ridden a couple of hundred miles or so over the last few weeks, and I've quickly learned that the greatest hazard comes no longer from the motorists but from other cyclists. I guess as a motorcyclist I take care with observation as I ride, as far as I can see many others exist in a little bubble of their own and express shock and surprise when the lane they decide to veer across has someone on a Brompton bearing down on them.
As a commuter I never encountered another class of cyclist, the Cycling Enthusiast. But as a weekend long distance rider I meet them on every ride. They enjoy being contemptuous as they pass, after all I am on a folding bike and I'm not wearing funny coloured Lycra. And it seems neither do I insist on being a roadblock in heavy traffic alongside one of the best cycle paths in the county, all wide and straight and flat. Do these people ever wonder why some motorists dislike them?
My ride takes me alongside a trunk road on a cycle path, then through minor roads and a neighbouring town. I'm used to the minor roads where I grew up, away from traffic and population, so I've been surprised just how much waste lines these roads. An afternoon's litter picking could probably yield a decent non-ferrous scrap haul, such are the numbers of drinks cans on the verges. And old tyres, there's the effect of a bit of misguided environmental legislation. In the UK it costs a few quid to dispose of a tyre, it's a so-called "green" tax. The result is that minor roads around centres of population seem almost to be lined with them, nestling in the leaves at the bottom of the ditches, dumped by people for whom a few quid seems like too much. In some places the council has put up signs warning of CCTV surveliance, wasted money as far as I can see.
I'm happy to see that the tyres and litter haven't bothered the wildlife though. A very surprised fox didn't see me coming, he was probably waiting for some of the pheasants or rabbits that are everywhere at the moment. Otherwise there are spring flowers aplenty, I pass blackthorn blossom, cowslips and violets, and those are just the ones I've noticed from a ten mile per hour viewpoint.
So I've fit back into being a cyclist quite easily. My legs feel stronger and I hope the exercise is helping with my weight. I can't say it's an efficient way to travel twenty miles, but I guess that's not really the point, is it.