Cycling week 39
There were some pretty good rides this week, but most of my entries . . . well, the entries are not nothing, but they are nothing-adjacent.
Three rides today, all of them – *gasp* – quite good.
A nice morning ride. Conditions: ideal.
Rode into town at lunchtime to buy some new front lights and some Nuuns – the best hydration tablets. But the man at My Ride told me that Nuun was no longer supplying their store. I was confused and thought he meant that Nuun had gone into liquidation and cried out: 'Nooo! But they're the best ones!' Bought GU ones instead – which, I'm ashamed to say, actually turned out to be better than the Nuuns. I may never buy Nuuns again.
The bike shop guy also said he often sees me slogging up Raroa in the mornings as he zooms down the other way. This was nice. Sometimes it's good to be witnessed climbing a hill by a fellow bike rider – to have your suffering seen. Seen by someone who understands.
Rode through a derangingly good croissant smell on Victoria St.
Got startled when a pedestrian bumbled out in front of me at an intersection. 'You almost ran me over,' they shouted. Which was true, but – not wanting to be bike-centric here – I'd had a green light and they had gone out on a red man.
Chilly ride to work. This ride felt long. The week felt long. It was Tuesday.
Rode into town after work – cold zooming downhill – for a book launch, then home later in freezing recent-rain air. Had to sit on a wet seat. I was dreading this ride home, and I was right to, because it was madness on the streets – close passers, red-light runners, hurtling SUVs. Every time I see a car run a red light (which happens a lot on Karo Drive), I feel like I am in the presence of death itself. Obviously we are always in some way in the presence of death. But red light runners have a particularly Grim Reaperish shadow about them.
I found a little window in the rain for my morning ride, and it was excellent – cool morning air, wet trees, slick roads. Smell of hot dryer in Highbury.
Trudged home after work in darkish spitty rain. It's possible, in some sorts of weather, to still feel like you have a sort of warm nest inside your jacket. The weather blasts all around but you are cosy.
Morning: a brisk ride in flimsy sunshine, but sunshine nonetheless.
Rode home at lunchtime to finish the day. Leg protesting. Discovered I had spilled blue pea sprouts all through my pannier. A few days later and I'm still discovering peas everywhere. Spillage is a constant risk for cyclists who transport food. Soup or hummus is the worst of course, but anything that rolls around is a nuisance. Dried chickpeas are a menace, and I can't even mention rice. What I find usually works is to put the risky food right at the bottom of the pannier and then put a heavy bike lock on top of it, pinning it in place.
I took today off work, intending to go for a big ride with my brother Neil, who is over from London. Neil has contributed a few London-based cycling weeks here in the past. But the logistics proved too difficult in the end and the ride was thwarted. So – not wanting to waste the riding opportunity – I just set off for old friend the golf ball around lunchtime. Conditions: overcast, sun bumping through, breezy.
The first leg, from Aro up to Brooklyn via Durham St, was a bad time at first. There is nothing like the shock of a sudden steep hill: the heart and lungs react with panic and disbelief as they hear the news that the body is no longer lying on a couch. Gradually they come to terms with the situation; the pain subsides. The road was closed on Apuka and part of Karepa due to slips, so I wheeled my bike sneakily through then carried on. The leg from Ashton Fitchett Dr up to the turbine was excellent – strenuous as hell but the whole world sparkly, and I was struck by the beauty of even the gorse with its funny little flowers. Gorse flowers always look like they are trying so hard. 'Love me!' they cry.
At the turbine I stopped to look back at the sea, and as always I noted my distance from the golf ball.
My quads were shrieking, so I stood up to climb a fair bit. Another cyclist came hurtling downhill in hi-vis and we exchanged nods.
It got colder and windier as I climbed, so I was glad I'd brought another jacket.
Also as I climbed, I was thinking about the mushroom soup in my thermos in my bag. In an inspired move I'd brought plain old packet Cup-a-Soup, mushroom flavour, the best sort – as well as my usual litres of hydration-tablet-infused water. So, although I was trying to pay attention to my surroundings, really the whole time I was thinking about the soup.
At last, my head getting cold, I reached the top and sat in the sun and had my mushroom soup, overlooking snow-capped mountains. Although there is undoubtedly something sinister about this place, with the radome pulsating nearby, it was the best mushroom soup of my life.
The wind took a colder turn on the ride back. The hilly bits of the way back are always a shock, too – often much steeper and sharper than expected. Animal check: Sparrows, wax eyes, thrushes. Saw a pug being walked by two people in huge puffer jackets. Heard a chicken screeching.
I was still thinking about the soup – I had about a cup of it left in the thermos – so once back in Brooklyn, I gave in and pulled over to finish the rest. It was even better now. As I write this (it's Saturday), I am still thinking quite a lot about the soup.
The climb home, from Aro climbing back up to Highbury, was hard work. After all of that open space, the proximity of hurtling vehicles felt freshly unsettling. But I settled into the climb. All in all, this wasn't the ride I had imagined for today, but it was a pretty good one.