“If Winter comes can Spring be far behind?”
Percy Bysshe Shelley
November, December are sweet months in the Northern hemisphere, reflecting on what you managed last year, imagining future adventures; the period before you have to try and match dreams to reality and risk getting ground between the two.
The good news for people who live in London and like to start bicycle journeys from their front door is that, in 2013, there will be no clash between the Dunwich Dynamo and London-Edinburgh-London. In fact the traditional Saturday night spin to the beach comes seven days before Albion’s premier touring test, making it an ideal final shakedown if the grand out-and-home to the Athens of the North is in your programme.
I would recommend bike racing to anyone as an excellent route to self-reliance and contentment. If you’ve ever been in a bike race everything else tends to seem comfortable and easy.
The problem with bike racing is that almost all participants end up losing. Non-competitive time-trials are much more forgiving. All you have to do is cover the course, inside the time limit, and you get the same medal, the same entry in your palmarès, as the fastest finisher who may have come in two days before you and had time to feed, sleep and go out training, before you were back in the hutch.
On a gentle downhill, on the last morning of the 1995 Paris Brest, I dozed off. In my experience this produces a sharp alarm-signal, which I assume originates from the spirit-level mechanism in your ear. I woke to find myself toppling to the right, and fortunate enough to be running through a village with a tarmac footpath beside the road, and a dropped kerb in exactly the right place to allow a comedy, recovery swerve up onto the sidewalk. It was early, the little town was quiet, nobody minded, but I took the hint and stopped for coffee.
In the cafe flicking through a newspaper on the counter – as tired pilgrims straggled past – a good-news, picture story caught my eye, featuring the great ride’s first finishers triumphantly rolling in. Even in my battered, sleep-deprived state I was struck by the charming novelty of reading – in yesterday’s paper – the provisional result of an event thousands – including myself – were still enjoying.
London-Edinburgh-London goes the pretty way and stretches to 1418 kilometres, close to 900 miles. If that sort of distance sounds impossibly arduous remember the time-limit – 116 hours and 40 minutes – is based on an average speed of 12 kilometres per hour. If you can average 16 kilometres – ten miles – an hour that leaves you six hours a day for sleeping, sit-down feeds and sociable networking.
These kind of events are less physical challenges than tests of efficiency and determination. If you pass you’ll become one of those happy people who say – without any sense of boasting or bravado – “…it’s only 200 kilometres.”