I wanted to get in one last cycle adventure before the year was out so Christmas Eve seemed the perfect opportunity. I decided to cycle home from London to Newmarket, around 85 miles.
I’ve previously cycled London to Brighton (around 70 miles) at roughly a 10mile an hour pace so figured it would take me around 10 hours, with stops, to get home on the 24th. Although it didn’t quite turn out that way.
Lesson 1: Challenge yourself, yes, but it’s better to go at a pace that suits you and enjoy the journey, rather than prioritise the goal.
My ride home for Christmas had a set destination — mum’s house, and I had a route in mind. I printed off it off from Google the night before in case my phone ran out of battery or data, and it actually turned out to be easier and quicker to reference paper than my phone when checking the way.
But I really missed a trick. I thought having a route planned was essential to ensure I didn’t get lost or end up cycling into the night. I was so hung up on going the right way that I would stop and check I was on the right path at almost every junction once out of London for fear of having to go back and loose time. And the thing that put me in this situation was time, or rather a lack there of.
I had tried to cover too long a distance in too short a time. An average of 10 mph is fine if the route is mapped out for you with signs (as it is on the major London to Brighton charity ride), but this wasn’t achievable on my own. This was totally my own fault, no one had said that if I don’t do it in a day, or cycle the whole route that it wasn’t really an adventure. I mistakenly prioritised cycling the whole distance over the thrill of discovery en-route.
So my next adventure will definitely focus more on discovery than destination and leave plenty of time for cake stops. I’ll be sure to give myself space to explore and time to journey, rather than simply travelling via a different means of transport.
And I think this equally applies to life. It’s more enjoyable this way, otherwise you’re just travelling, it’s not actually an adventure (life or cycling) if it’s all figured out and you don’t leave room for discovery. And I think this is why more and more professionals are swapping a corporate career for something more self-directed - what is life without the unknown?
My second takeaway is very much that I was lucky enough to share my journey. The people in your life are what make it and they sure make an adventure worth doing.
My flat mate and I set off at 6:30am in the dark and slight drizzle on Christmas Eve sporting my head torch additional light which definitely helped when going through Richmond Park in the pitch black. Heading through the quiet streets of London before everyone wakes towards Marlyebone Station. Luckily he knows the route so I could enjoy looking at the pretty buildings all twinkling with Christmas lights along the route and just pootle along side him. He took on an almost tour guide style, letting me know as we passed through various areas of London and pointing out interesting landmarks along the way. We managed to keep up a good pace and reached the station by 8:30 for a rather unhealthy brunch and cup of tea before waving him off.
Later on as I was out in the countryside, slogging my way through storm Eva, frozen and hungry, I was delighted to see my oldest friend and her lovely family who all turned out in force to support me. Huddled in the smallest pub I’ve ever been in - more like someone’s living room - sipping slightly odd tea. We reminisced about the time we all went to Cornwall, our fishing trip for mackerel and how I won the wettest bum competition after an impromptu kayaking adventure. We also swapped top tips for making macaroons - I’ll have to try putting a wooden spoon in the oven door next time!
Despite the fact that I didn’t reach my destination by bicycle - the train took over after Sawbridgeworth - this was my best Christmas Eve yet. Enjoying time with old friends and the accomplishment of travelling a fair old distance under my own steam was a wonderful way to bring in the festive season.
Wishing you all warm seasons greetings and that your 2016 is filled with discovery and great company.
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