Snippets from Lock Down – Lesson Learned – there’s no such thing as “All Down Hill”

“Snippets From Lock Down” is a series capturing short insights into how I spent my outdoors time, and some of the everyday adventures from my daily exercise. These are the moments of joy that shine through my lock down experience, like sun rays on a cloudy day. I hope you enjoy them too…

The breaks squeeze on, I leave it as long as I dare, to the last possible minute. I wonder if my bike will stop. I guess it was only a few seconds really but as I squeeze my breaks, and the bend at the bottom of the hill rushes towards me, all kinds of thoughts race through my mind. I wonder if my bike will stop, if it will get round the bend, will there be a car, or a pedestrian. Will there be any children, or a friendly little cat snoozing in the road, unaware that I’m about to round the corner completely out of control. 

I squeeze harder, my bike slows down, we take the sharp twist to the left, only drifting slightly towards the other lane. The snoozing cat is no where to be seen, and we both survive unharmed. It’s an 8% hill, tagged onto a 12 % hill, and I would do anything to cycle down them every day, except for riding up them again. So I don’t. They are maybe 10 minutes from my house, the definition of a local adventure, and the closest thing to skiing that doesn’t have skis or mountains or snow, but I don’t go everyday. I save them for weekends. 

It’s not even that I don’t like the up, it’s my favourite part, when it’s over. Sometimes I even like it at the time. I love the feeling of my legs driving the pedals, my lungs stretching, heart pounding, muscles aching. I love pushing it to see just how far we can go, how fast. Trying to break away from whoever I’m cycling with. They don’t know we’re racing, which is to my advantage. Burning myself out just before the top and giving myself a pep talk “just 10 more pedals, don’t give up now” 

In the thick of it I love it, but in my cosy house, tired from work, it’s hard to remember that’s true. 

Well, today, on this bike ride, we’ve been clever. We’re testing out a new loop. We’re cycling down the best hills ever, into the next village, back around in a potentially hill skipping loop, and down the long slightly down hill main road to the coast. We set off feeling pretty clever for sure. 

Except it doesn’t quite go that way. We see the sign for our turning, and pull off our usual route, completely confident that this is a good idea, and unsure why the cycle paths and network haven’t thought of this one. I’m not sure what I saw first: the pedestrians looking confused and checking their map, the red warning triangle with 25% written inside, or the wall of tree lined tarmac looming up in front of us, rising up like some sort of sea monster from the deep. “ I think we’ve made a mistake” I call back. 

Never a good sign

I drop my gears as fast as I can, all the way, I’m on 1:1 and I’m currently spinning fast going nowhere, on the flat before the storm. I’ve never pedaled anything like it. I hope it’s short, take a deep breath and I give the hill a go. The gradient ramps up as I start to pedal up the tarmac wall, and I’m immediately hit with how hard it will be, legs pushing with each stroke. My vision narrows and I take in nothing from around me, all I can see is the road, my handlebars and and a blur of foliage on either side.

I get past the pedestrians, that’s one tick at least. 

It looked WAY steeper in real life… just saying

All I can hear is my own breath, growing louder and louder, a mild burning in my legs starting to grow. I start counting each pedal, 20 more. One…. two …. Three…. Four… five… another twenty, and then twenty more after that. I near the top, part of me cant believe I’ve made it up, the other part of me doesn’t want to speak too soon in case there’s more to come. But I have made it. The pedestrians made it too, only a short way behind, a lot less sweaty and still looking slightly confused. My breathing gradually made it back to normal, but I don’t think the size of my head ever would. We have made it. 

It did surprise me that google never suggested this shortcut as a cycle route, and that it wasn’t clearly sign posted. I did wonder why people weren’t shouting about this awesome loop just next to our house, where you could go downhill endlessly and come round full circle without any sign of up. Now I think about it, it does seem like I was being a bit optimistic. I like to think every adventure is a lesson learned, today’s lesson for route planning is to always check the gradient, although maybe sometimes it’s more fun if you don’t. 

Till Next time ! Happy Adventuring !! XxX

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