I’ve always had more than one commuting route. I used to let some traffic lights decide if I should turn left and go through the smaller roads, or straight on along the busy but more direct main road. With fresh legs on a direct route I challenge myself to hit the rolling hills as fast as possible; the feeling of nausea as I crest the most challenging hills now a familiar feeling so soon after my morning bowl of porridge. By the tail end of the week the overwhelming feeling is the disappointment I feel when my legs complain about the aching and my will power gives in, changing down a gear to make it easier. “It’s a recovery ride” I tell myself. But cycling doesn’t just have to just be about speed and suffering, whatever happened to fun and adventure? Surely it’s these feelings that’ll keep you motivated to take the bike on a cold wet morning. When my legs start to slow down and I want to just enjoy the ride, I’ve found a way to add a little fun and adventure into the everyday commute, by seeking out the long way home. Canal paths, bridleways and small backroads have become my sanctuary. I’ve swapped aggressive impatient drivers on the main roads for cheery greetings from dog walkers, and wildlife in abundance – all just a matter of meters from the main roads. Sure it’s longer in distance so the time might be longer, but the smile on my face says it all. Why do we ride bikes if it’s not for ourselves?
My hands jump instantly to the brakes as the small black rabbit bursts from the hedge and bolts up the dark path just inches from my front wheel. Illuminated by 700 lumens of light from my front light (Lezyne Superdrive XL) for a few seconds before disappearing into the thick undergrowth. A quick dab of the brakes was enough to prevent a collision on this dark evening as the sun sets behind the thick clouds. Another rabbit looks on from the side of the track as I shoot past a little further up the track.
Racing along the tree-lined dirt track, the light is fading fast outside the powerful beam of my light. The route kinks right and up through an open gate, a small puddle on the corner relieves my tyres of traction momentarily, causing a rush of excitement as I slide between the wooden gate posts with just enough control. I exit the trees and it’s out over the fields, my tyres slip on the loose gravel as I survey the motorway from my elevated position. The headlights of cars all driving in lines at the will of the traffic day in and day out. I crest the small hill and round the blind bend, I’ve startled a fox who’s racing for cover, the white tip of the tail shouting out from the darkness.
I’m back in the trees, an old canal on one side, the water still present and bursting with life. Above me a bat; seems to be flying alongside. I live in a city and commute to a town, the main roads are faster but there ends the charm. So I’ve started exploring, more so on the way home, for backroads, paths, parks and bridleways that make my commute my own.