I wake up most mornings and think about riding my bike, which is perhaps not unusual to regular readers of this blog but may need explaining to people who thought this was going to be about party catering and are here by mistake.
I cycle because I love it – a bicycle can turn an everyday journey into an adventure, a chore into an encounter with nature and an opportunity to create special memories with people I love. It improves my health and wellbeing, maintains my cake-based lifestyle and generates a sense of strength and resilience by challenging what I think I’m capable of.
Unfortunately, with no ‘daily commute’ my working day contains no cycling unless I introduce it – the school run is barely a walk, the shops are on our doorstep and I can almost roll out of bed onto the train platform.
Enter an entity that I had almost forsaken with parenthood – leisure cycling. Obviously, by its nature, one needs ‘leisure’ to accommodate it and this has been in short supply; a couple of years ago I could count the time I had ‘to myself’ in a few minutes a day, mainly the exhausted ones between finishing the washing up and getting into bed. This was an improvement on previous years, when I counted doing the washing up as time to myself.
Then we entered this glorious phase, where our son doesn’t need constant supervision, entertainment or containment. He can be left unattended for minutes at a time and not cause harm to himself or others. I can’t really leave the country for weeks on end, but with a husband and child happy in the garden I can take my bike out for a couple of hours and not feel too negligent as a wife and mother.
Perhaps having so much potential time went to my head, or the lack of an election made me feel I wasn’t quite stressed enough, but I managed to come out of a conversation with a friend this time last year agreeing that a ‘5000 mile target’ might just be The Thing to focus on for 2018. This random agreement has propelled me to cycle through rain and snow, wind and sunshine, at home and abroad. Despite the newly acquired leisure, finding the 527 hours has been more of a challenge than the 5000 miles; I’ve squeezed miles into the days by starting early and pedalling late, missing meals and some bedtime stories, riding into the night after the working day and ignoring housework, homework and volunteer work at the weekend.
The best miles have been with friends and involved significant quantities of cake that one just can’t justify on non-cycling adventures. I’ve celebrated birthdays with bike rides, enjoyed cycling holidays, and managed some campaigning mileage too. Occasionally these activities haven’t involved Sally Hinchcliffe:
I’ve cycled my 30 mile non-commute from Edinburgh 34 times this year, feeling epic every time I’ve done it. I’ve seen my son’s self-esteem flourish as he pedalled 70 miles over five days in Orkney and enjoyed feeling my own strength and stamina grow as I cycled over 100 miles each week. Escaping my laptop for a lunchtime spin added many miles to my total and unexpected joy into ordinary days.
As winter approached, my weekday workload grew heavy and the days darkened but Edinburgh Night Ride lit up the weekends with new routes and roads around East Lothian.
I’ve loved my solitary miles too, as time to think and sometimes not to as well. I’ve had my breath taken away by the beauty of our country, and felt my heart leap with every encounter with deer, bats, pheasants, hares and hawks.
Whilst there has been an endless stream of the best of miles, there have been no worst of miles. Even the frightening ones held some enjoyment. Later, when I’d got home.
My 5027 mile of the year was cycled in Denmark, on the cycle paths, roads and woods of my husband’s home town, which seemed a fitting end to my year of cycling (sort of) Danishly.