I name my bikes. The Dawes Discovery 301 is Silver; the burgundy Coventry Eagle tourer is Trigger. It’s a bit girly, but they are the only two objects I have actually named. Silver is the real comfort bike: soft saddle, all-terrain tyres just wide enough to make Island roads bearable, but not as wide as mountain-bike tyres, which make for a slow ride. Trigger has the painful saddle, narrower tyres, drop handlebars, and a lighter frame, and is noticeably faster over the same regular journey to the post office.
Silver has been helping out with the hospital runs. October has thrown up some splendid days for cycling, and it’s been a real pleasure to be out on a bike. But the main aim is to cut the buses from the travel equation on the journey between Freshwater and Southampton. A bike means I can get to a ferry on time, and in Southampton don’t have to hang around for a bus after getting off the train. A journey that can take two and a half to three hours using public transport all the way has, at its best, been cut to 1 hour 55 minutes, front door to bedside.
Last Thursday, the ferry was spectacularly late and missed the connecting train at Lymington Pier. It was such a great day that, with 40 minutes spare for waiting for the next train and travelling to Brockenhurst, I decided to cycle instead. It’s a journey of just over five miles, along one of the New Forest’s busier roads, and it took just over 25 minutes – way off the pace I could set in my 30s, but perhaps understandable as it was gently uphill most of the way. I caught an earlier train to Southampton and avoided losing too much time to public transport.
And I won’t be doing it again in a hurry: comfort bike or not. Long-forgotten muscles ached for two days afterwards. But I’ve no doubt that circumstances will necessitate this short adventure again.
Cycling also brings you into contact with other cyclists. And while I was contemplating the pain of cycling a pitiful five miles extra in one day, I met a cyclist who does Lymington to Basingstoke in about three and a half hours (it takes an hour by car along mainly motorways). I felt decidedly lightweight.