Words: Serge the Seal of Death (check the forum)
Routines. Almost everyone is a creature of routine. It’s hard-wired, we are ruled by the passing of the sun, from sunrise to sunset, a never-changing yearly cycle. You wake up, you have breakfast, you commute to work, you do whatever you do during the day, then home again, and then into an evening routine. For some biking is a serious part of the routine: be it a quick ride before work once a week, a daily commute by bike, or a club ride night (or nights) comprising a mad dash to get home, changed, and to the meet up point (no matter what the weather – no one wants to be a fair weather rider).Sunset on the bike. Is there anything better?
My routine is almost fixed in stone, as young children tend to be even more into routines than adults. They wake up at the same time, our oldest is in year one at school (more routine), our youngest is at nursery (more routine), there are routines for meal times and bed times. The routines are drilled to the point of perfection, and my riding… yep typically routine.
I am one of the unlucky ones, or lucky depending on your point of view. I live in a village where the local club is 30 minutes away and the rides set off just when the kids are coming out the bath, still with teeth-brushing and stories to go, so I am very lucky to be out of the house and on my bike before 8pm. This means that I have really limited options and my choice is normally ‘Thursday night is bike night’. My local club often head out towards where I live on the edge of the Cotswolds. So during the winter months I become something of a bad penny, appearing in a blaze of 3600 lumens (manufacturer’s claimed output) on some muddy bridle-way, or cutting them off at a trail junction in one of the local woods. That’s the good thing about large group night rides, they can be seen across the valleys for miles.
But now a strange thing is happening. Whereas before my rides and lights needed to be planned, I can now get 4, 5 or 6 rides from my lights before charging, and the long views over the valleys have been closed off. Yes, summer has arrived. So I sit here at the longest day, and I have stopped being able to predict, or spot, where the club is riding. I could ring, but to be honest I have spent so much time riding solo over the God-awful winter that I am rather enjoying the light. I have even been able to get out by 7.30, and have been riding with my OS map, the one my wife had made for me, with the centre being the best local Cotswold riding, and the title ‘Serge’s Map, for Glorious Biking Adventures’. I have been using the dry trails (yes there have been some) to push out onto trails I have not ridden since BK (Before Kids), trails that only when I am riding them do the memories come back. I am reaffirming my local knowledge, whilst also discovering trails that six years ago were bad muddy thorny slogs, have now become armoured and maintained.
However summer riding is bringing new challenges. Riding twisting singletrack along the side of an old open stone quarry, now with the evening sun shining directly into my eyes, strobing with every branch and tree, killing my vision and leaving the trail a grey faint ghost of a line to follow. Having to race to complete the route I have set myself, and trying to get back onto known trails before the light dims, sunset comes, and the unfamiliar trails and woods become the darkest of the evening shadows. Having old familiar routine winter routes reversed, or added to, because suddenly I can take that trail to here and there and extend out the route. Exits from trails I have ridden all winter becoming searched for trail heads, as I am unfamiliar with what it looks like in the light: now that’s a weird sensation!Winding singletrack in half light. Lovely to ride, hard to photograph.
And once the darkness comes down, and the bats are flying up and down the singletrack at head height, it’s time to turn on the lights and turn towards home, but normally with a few of the old favorite trails and woods thrown in (after all 11pm is not so very late) and tomorrow the old routine will start again as sure as the sun rises and sets.
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