As a child I learned how to check the direction of the wind by sucking my baby finger and holding it up in the air. The side that felt cold first was the side where the wind was coming from. Times change and now I press the accuweather app on the screen of my iPhone to tell me the same thing, unless the battery is flat.
This morning I didn’t bother with the app and as I stepped outside the back door I could smell the MDF in the air which meant that the wind was easterly, coming from Carrick, over the Medite factory and on up to Clonmel. So off I set on my bike due east towards the town that cycling and music made famous.
The back road offers more shelter and has a lot less traffic so this was my chosen route. The air was crisp and the pure white frost, coated fields within the Valley of Slievenamon.
As I rode along, occasionally glancing down at the screen of my Garmin 510 I soon noticed the low battery warning flash up. Normally I would have this fully charged but haven’t been on the bike much recently and am out of the normal routine.
Approaching Carrick the screen went blank and a realisation dawned upon me. I would not be able to note my exact time, distance or average speed in a diary. I would not be able to upload the rest of the spin to Garmin connect and most importantly I would be able to ride up the Strava segment up ahead at whatever speed I liked without that little niggle of trying to put in a slightly respectable time. For the rest of the spin in this age of ever more connectedness I would be totally off the grid.
I decided to just roll along wherever the road would take me at whatever speed felt comfortable. Not that at this time of year anymore is required, it’s just that there is always a compulsion to go that little bit harder when the numbers are there on the screen in front of you.
Crossing Fidown bridge I stopped to watch a lone white swan glide gracefully against the ebbing tide as it floated on up river. On the other side of the bridge a low slung sun fought for it’s piece of the sky against an ever growing army of clouds.
A deep breath of clean fresh air and I was off moving again soon passing through Piltown, past Kildalton College and then on through the smaller village of Owning. Most houses had a snowman or a Santa somewhere outside whilst a small few had enough to be mistaken for the North Pole. It felt like Christmas.
Riding along quiet roads with little or no traffic, gives a headspace that can be hard to come by during the busy lives we all lead nowadays and I was again struck by the thought that this has much to do with the current popularity of cycling and running. Problems can be worked out and ideas can be developed when uninterrupted time is afforded to them. I don’t know many cyclists who meditate but this type of freedom and uninterrupted thinking time must have a similar effect to time spent umming on the floor in the lotus position.
Passing by Kiltiernan cottage I decided that I really must venture down soon with the family for Sunday lunch in the spectacular surroundings with the panoramic vista of the Comeragh mountains across the valley.
The next village on my meandering route was Faugheen, a tiny place with a great heritage of two wheels. The Faugheen 50 is a well known motorbike race and the Iverk Carrick wheelers beginners league also takes place on the quiet safe course and has spawned a multitude of great cyclists.
Crossing the main road at Lissadobber headed towards Ballyneale I was reminded of a something that Tom ‘Chops’ Kiely had told me. This road made up part of the route that he and the late Bobby Power used to take as part of their training route in recent years. I became aware that none of us get to ride our bikes for ever and that the ability to head off out on our bikes and enjoy the countryside is something that should not be taken for granted.
Before Ballyneale as I rounded a corner I noticed an old JCB in a field and stopped for a look. I pass here regularly enough but had never really noticed it. Judging by the look of it’s condition it was definitely here when I had passed before but I was probably concentrating too much on the numbers on a screen to notice.
Todays’ spin was not about numbers or graphs. It was simply about the enjoyment of riding my bike out in the open air, taking in the surroundings and the Christmas atmosphere. Recently I came across a saying that came to mind again today ‘ You don’t stop cycling because you grow old, you grow old because you stop cycling !’