There are times when I wish I were in this LEJOG adventure with someone else who lives nearby. I’ve realised that the biggest challenge I face is sustaining momentum; pulling on the Lycra when I’m still aching from the last ride, it’s cold, windy and looking like rain outside, and I can think of scores of other things I should be doing.
There are 15 of us doing the ride and most of us are in touch online. Six of us met up a few weeks back for a training ride and there are more of these in the pipeline. There are sportives too, like last week’s excellent Burgess Hill Springtime Classic, where I end up riding with hundreds of other cyclists, but none of that helps to motivate me day in day out in the way that a riding partner would.
I used to go for regular mountain bike rides on the South Downs with my mate Simon, but our cycle paths have diverged a bit lately thanks to clashing work commitments and differing goals. So nine times out of ten I end up heading off alone – and as a basically sociable kind of bloke, that sometimes feels like a bit of a shame to me.
But I need to be careful what I wish for. There’s a lot to be said for solitary riding. I get into a wonderfully reflective headspace when I’m alone on a long ride. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come up with creative ideas or problem solutions I simply wouldn’t have had the patience to figure out without the accompanying distraction of cycling. I can set my own pace and I don’t need to worry about group riding etiquette. I can spit and blow out snot rockets to my heart's content. I can go where I want, when I want. If the mood takes me, as it did the other day, I can shout obscenities at the weather gods when they decide to bless me with showers or strong winds at inopportune moments. I can sing too (a mixed blessing this one – I ended up with a Take That tune in my head for a whole day recently…nasty business).
Unwanted Take That songs aside, perhaps being a solitary cyclist isn’t so bad after all.
Today’s ride was one of the most enjoyable since I started training. Seventy-three miles of gorgeous Sussex countryside and coastline and I felt strong throughout. I could definitely have included a few more hills in the route and I was lucky with the weather, but I think I was due a fun one after all those colds and all that crappy weather.