Thursday, 8 August 2013

Cycling myself happy

I tried 'space cake' once. I was going to say that I didn't like it. That's not strictly true. It was a big, gooey, chocolate cake and I liked it as much as I always like chocolate cake. The bigger and gooier the better.

I liked it very much.

I did not like what it did to me. 

Curiosity made me try the cake. Greed made me finish it. And having polished off the lot, there was no crumb of comfort when I first imagined icy waterfalls coursing down my back, then became consumed with irrational fears and then, finally, passed out. A lone, foolish, slumbering adult among young people too wise and too cool to make the same mistake.  Just say no, grandma.

Recently, though, I have experienced feelings of profound euphoria. On my bike, having wound my way slowly, up long, winding country lanes, I will reach the top. Laid out before me, as far as I can see, is a patchwork quilt of fields and hedges. The sun blazes on poppies, rising boldly out of fields of corn, making their petals shimmer like tiny firecrackers. Somewhere, high above me, is a skylark, its tiny lungs bursting with the joy of being alive. 

I feel glad to be alive, too. Perfectly in the moment, scarcely believing my good fortune to be outdoors, pedalling skywards. 

As a cyclist you can take so much more pleasure in a journey. Your senses are more fully engaged. As well as drinking in the scenery, I am listening to birdsong and catching big draughts of honeysuckle and wild garlic as I pass. 

There is satisfaction in being self-propelled, too. I'm getting around not by turning a key but by spinning my pedals, a brisk, rhythmic percussion measuring the miles. I love the feeling of tiredness that settles slowly, lazily on my body. There's even pleasure in the dull aches of muscles worked, the creaks of protesting joints. 

I didn't get 'high' when I tried that cake. I got miserable. And full. But cycling? Yes I get high. Not just in terms of the ascent my Cyclemeter records for each trip but in the happiness I feel as I ride. 


On top of the world: this picture was taken at the top of a very steep climb last week, while I paused to admire the view (and get my breath back!)

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