Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Night riding - deserves a quiet night

When I can get my act together, I like cycling to work, it helps me keep fit, and saves money on petrol. It's not far from our house to the factory: 14 kilometres, a couple of big hills, but a great ride. If it was any longer I'd be too shagged to work a shift, and any shorter it wouldn't be doing me any good.
So why is it so hard to get my arse in the saddle?
The shift hours. Today was a morning shift. The shift starts at 4:00am. So to get to work with enough time to change and have a cup of coffee, I need to leave home at 3:00am. So I have to wake up at 2:45.
That's an infirnal time to wake up, and I'd much rather get in the car and drive to work with the heater on, listening to the radio.
The hard part is getting on the bike and getting started. Once I'm on the road it's very pleasant. So I get all the kit ready the evening before and have it all waiting by the bed. No excuses.
This morning wasn't as cold as it has been. We've had frost the last few days, but last night it rained, and the cloud cover stopped any autumn warmth from disappearing. I didn't know it had rained, because I was in bed by 7:00pm, exhausted from the previous morning shift. I didn't even have dinner, I was too knackered. It was only when I pushed the bike out of the gate and saw the wet road that I realised it had rained.
Fiona had put some of the fried chicken I'd missed in a tuppaware for me. My saddlebag had the tuppaware, wallet, & phone. It's a big canvas Carradice bag I used on the PBP ride back in 2003. It has a quick release attachment to the seat post, and also has permanently packed: a pump; a folding tyre; an innertube and tools.
It is very eerie cycling at 3:30 in the morning. It's dark, and very quiet. I take the back roads, past farms and hamlets and there is no traffic. Because it is autumn, the roads are covered in fallen leaves. The tyres going over the leaves make a distinctive noise that is difficult to describe. They are crisp, and yet wet and the noise is a gentle "shooshing" and crackling. The air was cold on my face, but I was warm because I have a good gortex jacket, heavy bibtights and cleat winter boots. As I sttod up on the pedals to climb the switchback hill past Genouillac I thought to myself that this was the kind of experience that no one else could share, I felt very solitary and alone, but it was OK, it wasn't a lonely feeling, just me and the bike, the noise of the tyres, the headlight throwing weird shadows on the road and the ditches, the sound of the wind in the trees, and sometimes the snort and snuffle of unseen cattle in the field.
I thought the ride back at midday would be warmer and I packed the jacket in the bag. In fact it was about the same temperature, but because I could see where I was going (unlike in the dark, in spite of my excellent dynamo hub and halogen light) I could ride faster, and thus get warmer. I was passed by a heavy transporter carrying a digger. It could only do 40kph so I sprinted up to its speed and coasted along, slipstreaming at 40kph hardly pedalling. Luxury.

In honour of the title - here's Michael Stipe and Mike Mills performing "NightSwimming" live on Jools Holland. mmm - nice

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At 7:56 pm, Blogger jamon said...

I spent a good hour on Google Earth eariler this year to work out a path to my office that didn't follow main roads.

I now have a fabulous country route, over hills and through farms, covering seven miles.

Mind, I'm not as brave as you, as I've stopped riding in now that the dark nights are upon us.

At 7:24 pm, Blogger travelling, but not in love said...

Tis true, it's dark, it's cold, there's snow on the mountains. I love French winter. None of the relentless rain that English winter brings, none of the neither warm nor cold dull weather either.

At least here it gets cold and stays cold for the winter. I like that. You know where you stand with weather like that.

At 8:02 pm, Blogger The Misanthropic Mormon said...

I appreciate the correction.


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