Summer treasure 9: Bike rides

5/9/2018 The approach of the end of summer is a sure way to bring into focus the things that you haven’t made the most of and don’t want to miss. This year I have noticed more of these things than usual. Luckily, though the much needed rain arrived in August, we have been blessed with a some idyllic days of warmth and sunshine at the beginning of September. After the summer rush I have also been blessed with a couple of quieter weeks in which I have the leisure to prioritise different activities: cello practice, writing, blackberry picking, jam-making and catching up with house and garden jobs that have been waiting for me most of the summer.

One of these jobs was mending bikes: one puncture, two malfunctioning brakes, and various rusted bolts that needed oiling and loosening for the adjustment of saddles and other moving parts. I am not much of a mechanic, but – aside from gears, which I do not understand at all and never seem to work properly, even after a visit to a bike repair shop – I am thankful that the mechanisms of bikes are generally simple, on view, and with observation and a bit of trial and error, most of their troubles can be fixed at home. And the satisfaction gained from such home repairs cannot be underestimated…

After my bike mending session, there was no excuse to delay the bike ride which I had been starting to long for over the past week or two. I have been on plenty of walks this summer, but the bike has made only a rare outing, despite being an important component of all summer holidays since I was a child. I’m sure that’s why I was longing for it. I suppose the difference is that I’m not on holiday now; but, as I’ve discovered, all that is required is beautiful weather and an hour of free time, and I might as well be. I never cease to be thankful that, regardless of how busy I am, living in the place that I do, and being surrounded by animals, trees and country lanes, makes the whole summer feel like a holiday. Not having to leave at the end of it is the best part.

There is little that can match the bliss of a leisurely ride along country lanes on a warm, sunny evening, the breeze on your face, and the fun of moving faster than your legs can take you but not so fast that you can’t observe details, enjoy the landscape and stop for any particularly good sound, sight or smell. I was able to check on the progress of ripening blackberries, watch a hare disappear into the hedgerow in front of me, and listen to the sound of crickets in the long grass.

My first ride was only a half-hour loop, but it was perfect. Of course, bike rides in any season have their charms. But, for me, the summer bike ride is paradise.