Solitude in the city is never quite what it seems. The next person is only a thin concrete wall away, a busy road within earshot, a 24 hour supermarket open for business close by. But on a bike you can escape and leave it behind, close the front door and pedal yourself into the middle of nowhere.
You, an empty road, horses in a field, and the wind filling your ears.
My winter training has differed in one significant way from previous years – it’s been undertaken almost entirely alone. I have a bible (written by Joe Friel) and it decrees that riding alone is the most effective way to train. But as I hope has been made abundantly clear on this blog, effectiveness is not a singular aim I attempt to achieve in training. Yet unlike the core strength exercises and the pedalling drills to hone technique, I’ve actually stuck to this commandment. I’ve clocked up hours and miles alone – yet it’s rarely felt lonely.
Looking back at the year just gone I’ve spent approximately 450 hours riding a bicycle. I’d wager that I’ve spent approximately 450 of those hours with both hands on the handlebars.
Riding hones the pedalling technique, endless fluid circles. The body adapting, the bike an extension of the rider. Endless loops of Richmond Park, I could navigate it with my eyes closed. Or packed into a fast moving peloton, navigating hair pin bends. At times one handed, either hand, looking backwards, sideways, nonchalantly, effortlessly. And yet… as soon as both hands let go I feel like a fish out of water. Or at least a fish about to leap from the water to land face first onto the tarmac.