It’s a place that we go and ride often. The hilltops are clad with a brush of heather and the combes that connect to the valley bottom cascade with oak and beech that wrap you in an embrace of colour as the seasons change. Each time we ride there’s a choice. Start high and be met with sky and the gentle undulations of the cresting hills, or start low where the streams level as they pass beyond the combes to the sea. As often as not, there’s an unspoken agreement that the ride begins with a climb. Sky views, though cherished, still have to be earned.
There’s always that initial period at the beginning of a ride, as the wheels escape tarmac to be met with the richer textures and resistance of earth, rock and roots. No words are exchanged, and looks are measured as individually you break away from the place where you were, to the space where you want to be.
In recent years I’ve been seduced by the concept of meditation and its promise of an antidote to the chaos of life with its acquired cloak of modernity. In my yoga practices I try to concentrate on stillness and breath, but only rarely find the place where the mind and body cooperate and find balance.
But sometimes, it seems that the thing we’ve been looking for has been there all along; just waiting for its value to be unearthed and recognised. As I drop down the gears and cast my eyes towards the horizon, my characteristically racing mind quietens, and all the competing thoughts drift away as I will back the muscle memory that I know I need to carry me upwards.
Mechanical propulsion; there’s that reassuring simplicity in knowing that the action of turning the pedals can take you as far as your body and mind are prepared for. There’s a comfort in the repetition as the warmth starts to spread, and the sense of movement and familiarity reminds you of why you pushed aside all the competing interests for this moment in time.
And there it is, in the simple act of pointing the bike uphill, your mind empties and the calm spreads like an embrace.
... summit sunshine not included ...