Throughout the first couple of weeks of December I keep up a steady pattern and plug away with the commute ride, so by the time the days of the year are dwindling, the end is in sight.
The sales started early, so I bought myself some new gear to help with the final push (if anything, in addition to the year of steady riding, this has been the year of buying clothes for cycling in) – some bib tights, which the Canadienne refers to as a ‘penguin suit’, thanks to its sleek wetsuit appearance, and finally, clip-in pedals and shoes. The first use of the bib tights is on the loop out to Meopham again, with Sasha. Amazing how different the scene is from just a month ago. All the cleanness is in the sky now, silver and solid, while the roads are mucky, and the fields muddy. Bare trees, and darkness all around. Cold, cold, cold.
It’s a rush finish to 2011 at work, long days and nights, and as usual, when I am finally done for Christmas, I was slapped down straightaway by another cold. Full of it, I drive to Mum’s in Sussex on the 23rd, bike in the back, new pedals still in their box. The BHAG has become famous, so they ask me how many miles to go; I sleep and drink lemsip and when I come round on Christmas Day, her husband helps me fit the pedals, and she parcels up the Christmas cake, and in the afternoon, all three of us head out.
The route is around the South Downs, towards Ditchling. I cycle the whole way; my Mum and her husband drive to the car park for the main ride, and they stop on the road waiting for me, checking. The three of us slip through the quiet villages and stop for our cake in the wintry countryside. In the evening, when we’re back, Mum makes me tea and cooks Christmas dinner. This is how you do the things you care about: buoyed by the people around you, carried by the words and the help of the people who care about you.
And from that point, it seemed easy. The final ride was on the 28th, when I was back home. I decided to go to Eynsford, since that’s where I went to started the BHAG, back in January 2011. And I sat again in the churchyard there, opposite the ford, and thought about how far I’d come in 12 months. It was about 18 miles to Eynsford, and I needed 20.7 to hit the target, so the 2,011th mile came as I cycled out of the village towards Swanley (the point pictured, below), as the winter sun finally burned through the grey and cast its low, gold light over the sharp hedgerow branches. As I came back into London the sky was clear and pure, a peach coloured dusk dissolved in the darkening blue: one of those dusks that could equally be a dawn.
I cycled 208 miles in December, putting the total for the year at 2,023. Pretty good going, and a strong retort to those who are tempted to ask if I’ll be doing 2,012 this year, as it covers me into the next decade. I won’t be setting another mileage based cycling goal for 2012 though – as much I enjoyed the BHAG, it’s been tough and time consuming. I’m now a confident and pretty fit cyclist, and I’d like to focus not on pure mileage, but on some more interesting and longer (overnight) routes this year.
The best things about the BHAG
* Well, actually completing the goal! The BHAG was a constant companion this year, and having a clearly defined goal was great. It gave me a real reason not to stay in on a Saturday, to cycle to work or even to cycle across London for a meeting. Writing about it here on the blog was equally good, and telling people helped too – I had to see it through, and I’m amazed, in a way, how easy – or perhaps doable is better – it was.
* In terms of individual cycle rides, London to Brighton felt like a terrific achievement and I’ve seen some really beautiful Kent and Sussex countryside. The loops out to Biggin Hill and Meopham have been particularly gorgeous in terms of both views, and roads.
* I’ve also had the chance to discover London more; Jamaica Road might be unlovely, but seeing Greenwich Park change through the seasons was a treat, as was getting to zip right by St Paul’s every day.
* The best ride is in Canada, though. Cycling on an F1 race track was great fun.
The worst things about the BHAG
* I got thoroughly bored of the commute; I rode it and rode it and rode it, far more than I would have without the BHAG. It got very boring. That said, however dull it was, endless commute riding was certainly good for my fitness.
* The other downside is how much I spent on cycling clothing. I cycled a decent amount every single month, through the entire range of conditions in the UK, and quickly learned there’s nothing fun about being cold, wet or even too hot. I’ve probably spent as much on gear as I did on my bike. Again, though, the positives are that almost all the stuff I’ve bought has been good in terms of quality and suitability. Even as a novice cyclist, a few hours on the web and I was able to figure out where to invest my cash smartly.
If you’re interested in reading more, you can check out all the BHAG entries.
Total miles: 208
Boris bikes: 0
Total miles cycled in 2011: 2,023