While the cats are away the mice will play, and so it is that when my wife announced she was taking herself and the children off for a few days, my first thought was riding.
Having a three-month-old and a toddler means that I pretty much only ride after they’re in bed. The toddler does like outings on the back of the Gazelle but, lovely as that is, it hardly counts as riding.
With opportunities for all-day weekend rides as rare as an England football World Cup success, I wanted to make sure I made the most of the family’s absence. My regular mountain biking pals were all off downhilling in the Alps. Who to ride with?
My pal, Jon Hicks – claim to fame: he designed the Firefox logo – had zero interest in cycling five years ago. Then he started riding to work and overnight fell in love. Since then, I have witnessed his love affair deepen. Who better to join for an all-day ride?
He suggested a 50-miler taking in highlights of the Cotswolds. Gulp – 50 miles. My cold feet began to prickle with cold sweat. I mean, I’m supposed to be the keen biker and here’s old Jon casually proposing a 50-mile ride.
For fun, on a Sunday. Well, I had to say yes, of course. Last year I rode to Amsterdam, covering about 75 miles a day, so I knew I could do it – but that was for charity and it killed … The weeks slipped by and suddenly the ride was upon me. I decided I needed to train, and remembered a pretty 25-mile route out to the windmill at Brill.
I set out bursting with zest. Then, leaving Oxford, at the top of the hill in Barton, my seat post suddenly snapped. I knew why – it’s carbon fibre and I’d overtightened it in my quest to get the saddle an inch higher, for added power.
Crestfallen, my training ride seemed to be over before I’d even started. But I was damned if I was going to give up, so I stuffed the snapped-off stump with saddle attached into the seat tube and tightened it gingerly so as not to crush the carbon fibre again. I rode all the way to the M40 and beyond with saddle on the crossbar and my knees up around my ears like a teenage BMXer. But the ride felt easy enough and I was barely sweating by the time I cruised into the riverside Viccy Arms in Marston.
My feelings changed from daunted to really rather relaxed about the Sunday ride. It then dawned on me that Jon’s 50-miler would be starting from his home in Witney, and I didn’t have the car.
I’d have to ride to Witney and back, adding at least 30 miles to Jon’s 50. So: 80 miles?
Yikes. I could cheat and chuck the bike on the bus (if they let you), or man up and ride the whole way …
Read what happened in James’s next column in two weeks.
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