campags and campfires

11 NOVEMBER 2009

Riding a bike makes me happy, it always has, even when it hurts.

The journey from Exeter to the coast of Bude doesn’t register as any great accomplishment, but to us it was big, five days of the hilliest riding I’ve ever done, it pushed us both further physically than anything before.

We’d talked about doing something like this earlier in the year and the short summer was coming to an end so we needed to do something if this plan wasn’t going to fade away like so many other things. The trip from Devon to Cornwall was planned without too much idea of just how hilly the route was or even how heavy a road bike gets when you load it up with tents, sleeping bags and the other necessities for touring. It was something new to both of us, only familiar with single day journeys that you can recover from the next day after a hot bath and your own bed. What we discovered was five days of pain, but a good pain, the kind you easily forget about until next time it hits you on another big hill. You have to use every inch of your body to keep your pedals moving, your bike twisting and creaking under the tension between the road, gravity and yourself at a pace at which it would probably be faster to walk. But that’s not the point, walking would have been failure and it’s only because there were two of us that we kept pedalling. If either of us had been riding alone it would have been a totally different story, I passed what I thought was my limit time after time. All those hills do have a good side though, coming down them, touching 50mph with a tent and other gear on the back of your bike isn’t the safest thing you could do on a winding country road, but it feels pretty good and puts a very big smile on your face.

I found some incredible moments of calm while climbing some of those hills, especially the very long or very steep. Despite the difficulty, you’re oblivious to almost everything around you, head down, mind empty, it has to be good for you. Five days is not really a long time but it really reminds you of taking pleasure in the simple things, the main concerns in life are stripped back to the very basics: how much your legs hurt, getting your tent up and eating.

There were no punctures, no crashes and no walking, I think we did all right. The next trip is already planned. We’re going to Wales and hoping for fewer hills.