Before I ramble on about a bike ride, I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who read and offered feedback on the previous post with Emma Wallace. And, of course, Emma herself. The feedback continues to be nothing short of astounding from individuals feeling empowered to open up about their concerns to large companies asking to use the post within their own social media publications.
The reception of the post was somewhat of a relief. The heavy burden of the words following recent events left me feeling guilty that I hadn’t posted it sooner and also slightly concerned that some people may view the timing of the publication to be somewhat of a capitalisation.
Thankfully, this was only my brain, thinking the worst.
Following the publication, I felt inspired to have my own mental health conversations; it was during one of these that I came to own small conclusion. Yoga and Meditation are useful tools and ones that I recommend to everyone and anyone. As a Cyclist, I use both of these on a regular occasion. After a long ride, there is nothing better than just sitting down, stretching out and absorbing the memories of the day. Meditation, however, I find a little more challenging. I quickly become distracted.
Speaking about this, I soon came to my conclusion or rather, my friend did. Cycling IS my mediation. It is the way I become at one with myself, I lose myself in the moment, I pedal, I take in the scenery, I focus on my breathing, my pedal stroke and my body and before I know it I reach another town or city. I get lost in my thoughts, not a care in the world can penetrate me at this moment. It is just me, my bike the passing wind and the open road. My personal, meditative detox.
So, after a being bombarded with news regarding the hate-mongering, climate-denying, utter shit face of a man they call Donald all week, I decided it was time to get out for a long ride. My own Trump detox, to find new roads, have lunch by the ocean and once again enjoy my first long ride in some time, injury-free.
I did some research on the areas within cycling distance that I had never been and decided Essex was perfect. Close enough to cycle, and near the ocean. All I needed to do now was find some historic buildings, and it was a winner! I planned the route using fragments of other peoples rides on Komoot, and before I knew it, I had planned an epic, 100’ish mile route.
The alarm sounded at 4:30 am on Saturday, and it was time to move.
The bike was already packed and ready from the night before (sometimes, I surprise myself!). I wedged my Bikepacking frame pack in my Handsling road bike. Not the most aero fit but it would do, the extra space for snacks on a long ride is always welcome.
Due to the Winter time changes here in there the UK, daylight riding is limited. Hence, whilst it pained me to get a train to the starting point of my ride, it was a necessary evil if I was to get home and back to see the sunset in Richmond Park (my new favourite commuter activity). I train hopped from Richmond to Chelmsford, Essex. Arriving at 8 am to see the cafe over the road opening ready for a double shot wonder to start the ride.
I was leaving the birthplace of radio, Chelmsford and heading East. As a student of Historic Buildings, it was a pleasure to ride through the old towns and villages of Essex, littered with Timber Frames, the remnants of a past life, free of fake-tanned millionaires deciding the future of the world and focusing more on the location of the next meal.
Arriving at the village of Sandon, the most spectacular low, winter sunrise welcomed me. The sun, breaching through distant morning fog was glaring and beautiful over the foreign fields. The morning dew, leaving the leaves surrounding the area and the locals, well they were waking up to find me, standing in said field, with a bike, taking pictures.
Essex is a very much unexplored, distant land for me. I have never spent much time there, never mind of the bike, so it was nice to lose myself in the rolling countryside. And, whilst I mentioned earlier that I was injury-free, this was never far from my mind.
I am OK now, and it has been a long road back (pun intended).
I returned from Yorkshire around two months ago with pain in both knees. I now believe this was due to doing too much too soon and also a lousy bike set up. Anyway, since then, I have tried to be as sensible as possible, managing my return to fitness, aided by the welcomed return of a steady job which I can commute. The 20/30 miles a day has helped with the rebuilding of damaged muscle. Some days I can take it real easy, others I have been collecting KOM’s on Strava.
However, this being my first long ride since my return, the last thing I wanted to do was push it too hard and injury myself again. So, I didn’t race up any hills, and I absorbed the moving world around me in my own little rolling meditative state of happiness, pain-free.
Reaching the town of Dengie, I visited St Peters Chapel a few miles off the route I had taken but a welcomed detour. The Chapel stands over the ruined gate of a Roman fort which formed part of a chain of defences along the east coast of England. In the middle of the Seventeenth Century, St Cedd built a church and monastery on the site, which he used as a base to convert people to Christianity. Not one for religion, I was here to admire the architecture. To respect and soak up the history of the location, transport myself back and imagine what it must have been like defending the area in 600 AD. The account is fascinating and well worth reading.
I stopped, looking out to the ocean and re-fueled. Taking purposely deep breaths and letting the stress of the week escape.
The route now was pretty much a loop back to where I began near Chelmsford but still following the open, winding roads of Essex countryside. After following the road upwards for a good few miles, I found myself engulfed with 360 Essex vistas. The sun, once again battling with the low cloud only further emphasised the skyline, the green fields and forests below stood out like beacons of hard work and cultivation and whilst I knew I would soon be heading back into London, it was good to take this moment.
Traffic was limited in Essex, the odd car past me and gave me plenty of room, the route more populated with walkers and cyclists is one I would recommend. All of which can be via my Komoot profile—the link at the bottom of this post.
It was then a case of racing against the clock. My mission to reach Richmond Park by sunset was very much on. I decided to push on. My legs had felt great all day, no signs of injury, and with a big smile on my face, I put my head down and ploughed on home.
Passing through London and down into the depths of the city, it made the earlier riding seem all that more special. The roads now littered with angry drivers aggressively honking horns and batteling for that piece of road that would set allow them to knock a few seconds off their journey.
The public, seemingly guided into the middle of the road like robots on their phones unwilling to look both ways.
The only saving grace in London and possibly the only positive thing to come from the pandemic – the number of cyclists and cycle lanes in the city. Saturday afternoon and it was rush hour for cyclists. I love to see it.
I reached Richmond Park just in time to collapse on the grass, enjoy my victory coca-cola (that I bought some 40 miles ago) and let the light fade away before me.
That was a solid day in the saddle. Trump was detoxed.
Sometimes, we all need to get out there and do the thing we love to detox, to let go of our misgivings, our darkest thoughts and remember how beautiful life can be if we give it a chance.
The next few months will once again bring our futures into doubt, following the announcements of countrywide lockdowns, we all need to try that little bit harder. Do what makes you smile, text your friend and make them smile. Kindness is magic!
Ride by the numbers
6:42 Hours of Riding
3,455 ft Elevation
View ride here
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