It was one of those tricky decisions: Liz and the girls are away overnight, so do I spend another couple of hours working into the evening on a bloated spreadsheet, before crawling home after dark? Or do I... Go For A Ride?
Sounds an easy dilemma to resolve, doesn't it? But it's funny how months of practically no cycling at all can play tricks with your mind. You see, the thing is if you combine running much of VeloVixen with spending as much time as possible en famille, it doesn't leave a lot of time for cycling. I realised the last time I'd ridden more than the 4 mile commute to VeloVixen HQ was a full year earlier.
And over those 12 months, I'd become increasingly aware of wasting away. I knew my heart was coagulating, my muscles atrophying, my cycling ability withering. I'd hit 40 since my last 'proper' ride, and surely the slippery slope was increasing its gradient... wasn't it? Could I still ride a bike properly?
So it took a little of the cold swimming pool approach with a pinch of the F*** It Factor to make me down my tools and climb on my trusty old steel Condor. Just me, a bidon of water and a packet of peanuts.
Boy, was I glad I did.
The moment I headed out onto the lane, those rural smells enveloped me. You know the ones - cool evening freshness blended with sweet hay bales, cut grass and that indefinable tangy quality of fresh air.
From my first few turns of the pedals, I knew I'd made a good decision.
It was like stepping back in time - the B roads and lanes were deserted, and the few motorists I did see waved and gave me plenty of space. It felt like the (unwritten) cycling chapter of Wind in the Willows, when Mr Toad discovered the joys of cycling and felt like the King of the Road on two wheels.
The tarmac was smooth and gently undulating, the temperature warm enough to work up a sweat but cool enough to feel refreshed. Ripe wheat fields swayed gently in the breeze and pub beer gardens hummed contentedly as I rolled by. Shadows lengthened gradually and the dusk colours became ever warmer. Hell, even the 3G on my phone worked, so I could find my way home.
It was ridiculously idyllic.
The olfactory sensory overload continued - rich farmyard smells competed with the wafting of just-lit barbeques, and I breathed them in happily.
Yes, my heart rate was probably higher than it would have been at those speeds when I was fitter. And no, Strava did not play a part in my ride.
I hadn't planned a route. Too often we fall over ourselves in preparing kit and routes and nutrition and timings. And often that's necessary. But this time I took the purist's approach. If I saw an interesting looking turning, I took it. I continued down shady Oxfordshire lanes with no idea where they led. When I'd ridden for an hour, I headed for home.
That was the point: it was a joyful two hour reminder that sometimes the technicalities simply don't matter. Of why cycling can fill your soul, recharge your spirits and reintroduce itself into your life even after a period apart. Absense makes the heart grow fonder, after all.
It was gloriously uncomplicated. And blissfully enjoyable.
So my message is this: keep it simple sometimes and you'll be reminded of the essence of cycling.
Get out there now, before summer's over.
Unfussy Kit for Easy Riding
Unit 28, Wheatley Business Park, Old London Road, Wheatley, Oxford OX33 1XW // firstname.lastname@example.org // +44 (0) 1302 249 323