Here is the latest of nearly twenty Instagram plan view handlebar photos. Changed bikes, countries and escapades.
My latest in preferences is gravel, carless gravel - and I’m quite picky. No stones bigger than, say, a marble. No potholes. Nothing steeper than about 25%. In fact, since I’m declaring a dream route… I’ll come right out and tell you what it is. Somewhere between Mangakino and Waipapa Dams on the Waikato River Trails is a section of forestry road, that is wide, rolling in the sense that a roller coaster is rolling…, smooth (consolidated clay and gravel), with an inch carpeted layer of pine needles. It is date my favourite ever section of riding I’ve come across.
Swoop down a steep section, through a tight right hander, apexing and keeping as much speed on as possible, in the hope of cresting the 30% little knoll ahead. Nearly get to the top, and then back into the saddle for a slow climb to the peak again (just like a roller coaster slowly grinding up to its zenith). Swoop down again and then level out onto a wide and flat section. Grab a taller gear and spin along sniffing the pine in the air, it’s a dream.
But that is that any progress from where I (re)started my love of cycling? This carless gravel route I describe sounds rather a lot like bridle and cycleways of the New Forest, U.K. Where, Lady Huck and I would just potter and explore. As I look backwards through my ignored Flickr, try and recall my deactivated Facebook account, and scroll down Instagram, I think:
Have I made any progress?
I have an aluminium cyclocross cum transporteur cum gravel bike… Which I find at times far too stiff to be fun.
The bike has two bottle cages and a front rack… So I can be very well provisioned when I cycle.
I own cycle shoes and a multitool… Not sure what for.
I have made cycling buddies. When cycling used to be largely solo for me… Actually, I must self correct. The indomitable Dr. (c’est fini) used to accompany me on hijinks, aboard her own fendered and green machine. And, in hindsight, bloody bravely too!!! But still, I have made cycling ‘buddies’.
Philipohoppotomus: he’s a lean, clean eating, zen breathing cardio machine. I knew he had a road bike he never used on the road, a hangover from a three-brothers-triathlon… So I convinced him to join me on a very tame gravel river trail. It was fun! Then, buoyed by some rail trail excursions, we attempted a section of the river trail which is best described as: a technical walking track leading to a goat track and bog joined by an arduous road climb to one hundred switchback turns and more goat track. [deep breath] We bailed from the return leg and took the road home. I wrote the undeserved miles post immediately after.
Now, Phil, He has progressed! A new mountain bike later and he’s unstoppable. We make a marvellous cycling pair. His 29er MTB rolls over anything and everything, and big squishy sticky tires corner like rails on descents. My CX is light and at 36:32 and very slippery tyres, I just have to sit and pedal as smoothly as I can, staying on top of that gear, sitting and grind-spinning. Is that a thing? It means that I have no choice other than to ascend quicker than Phil. And then shortly after a crest I hear him flying down behind me, and past me, and off into the distance, a rooster tail of dirt and debris all I see. We soon meet on the next climb: Phil standing and stomping out a tiny gear, and me grind-spinning past. That way, we make a great pair.
And in that fashion, we’ve travelled all of the Waikato River Trails, Old Coach Road, Hauraki Rail Trail, half of the Timber Trail and a smattering of shorter loops and links around the place.
But me? Have I? Progressed? Or do I just know what I like? Progress, or preference…