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TRAT 2010 – Solitary pleasures


There are times when I wish I were in this LEJOG adventure with someone else who lives nearby. I’ve realised that the biggest challenge I face is sustaining momentum; pulling on the Lycra when I’m still aching from the last ride, it’s cold, windy and looking like rain outside, and I can think of scores of other things I should be doing.

There are 15 of us doing the ride and most of us are in touch online. Six of us met up a few weeks back for a training ride and there are more of these in the pipeline. There are sportives too, like last week’s excellent Burgess Hill Springtime Classic, where I end up riding with hundreds of other cyclists, but none of that helps to motivate me day in day out in the way that a riding partner would.

I used to go for regular mountain bike rides on the South Downs with my mate Simon, but our cycle paths have diverged a bit lately thanks to clashing work commitments and differing goals. So nine times out of ten I end up heading off alone – and as a basically sociable kind of bloke, that sometimes feels like a bit of a shame to me.

But I need to be careful what I wish for. There’s a lot to be said for solitary riding. I get into a wonderfully reflective headspace when I’m alone on a long ride. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve come up with creative ideas or problem solutions I simply wouldn’t have had the patience to figure out without the accompanying distraction of cycling. I can set my own pace and I don’t need to worry about group riding etiquette. I can spit and blow out snot rockets to my heart's content. I can go where I want, when I want. If the mood takes me, as it did the other day, I can shout obscenities at the weather gods when they decide to bless me with showers or strong winds at inopportune moments. I can sing too (a mixed blessing this one – I ended up with a Take That tune in my head for a whole day recently…nasty business).

Unwanted Take That songs aside, perhaps being a solitary cyclist isn’t so bad after all.

Today’s ride was one of the most enjoyable since I started training. Seventy-three miles of gorgeous Sussex countryside and coastline and I felt strong throughout. I could definitely have included a few more hills in the route and I was lucky with the weather, but I think I was due a fun one after all those colds and all that crappy weather.

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine ( 

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