It’s been a funny 7 days. A week that’s been very up and down.
On the one hand, I received an official email that has set me an impossible target, that I simply cannot meet. After getting very emotional, I pulled myself together and stated my case for a more appropriate target, but now I have to wait and see. I’ve needed extra support this week, but it’s not all materialised. I’ve become impatient, tearful and generally not myself at all.
But on the other hand, it was my birthday, and the Hubster came up trumps, by sorting out a lockdown takeaway of Moules Frittes, from a local restaurant, and so we spent the evening in Old Portsmouth, with picnic blanket and wine with a view of Portsmouth Harbour pretending we were on the other side of the Channel.
But despite feeling quite lonely at the moment, with most social activities curtailed, and also no end in sight to working from home, all I really craved was to get away and be on my own for a while. Crazy right?
On Saturday, the Hubster had arranged to be running for the best part of 24 hours – something about a challenge to run a mile in each of the 24 hours of the longest day. This meant that he was out of the house all day, so I indulged myself and had a sorting out bikes day. I cleaned 3 bikes, sold one, and then set about changing all my dynamo light-set and cables for new ones, and rearranging the cockpit of the bike so that it was more practical for big miles. I’ve been fiddling with it for ages, but it’s not been quite right. Today, I was going to sort it out once and for all.
Before I knew it, it was 7 pm, and I still hadn’t been out on my bike. So eager to make sure that I now had set up my bike and lights correctly, I decided on a sunset ride, so that I could ride back in the dark, and check the lights.
There’s something magical about riding into the night. I’ve often said that I adore night riding. In fact it’s the perfect time of day to ride solo. The magic of the night doesn’t require company.
The original plan was to ignore the set training, and just ride to a beach and watch the sunset. If I felt like it, I might do the set training intervals, but since I needed a break, it was unlikely. The beach in mind was Hill Head.
I finally set off at 8:20 pm, with an hour to sunset. I have no recollection of the ride towards Fareham. Maybe because it’s a route that I’ve done so often, or maybe because my mind was wandering. In less than an hour I reached Hill Head, but decided to continue on. There was no sign of a beautiful sunset yet, so I figured I had a little time.
Riding along Meon Shore, motor homes were parking up for the night, and fishermen were arriving, with some looking like they would be settling for the night next to their rods. I continued to head west, I wasn’t done yet. It was time for a dusk adventure. I took a right turn onto a concrete slab road which criss crossed fields, and eventually some woods. The concrete road gave way to gravel, although eventually I decided to follow a potholed footpath to the sea.
The beach was so tranquil. The sea gently broke on the shingle, and retreated over and over again. To the right of me were the red lights of the old Fawley refinery chimney stack. Over ahead were the lights of Fishbourne and Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and to the left were the lights of Portsmouth.
Night riding hightens the senses. When the world starts to head towards slumber, you become aware of the smallest sound. You hear the breeze through leaves, the trickle of a stream, a distant motorbike. As I rode past Titchfield Haven, the sounds of the wild fowl settling in for night was deafening. There was singing, chirping, squawking, and shrieking.
It is not just auditory senses that are heightened, but also olfactory. We become very aware of the smells, especially the sweet ones. The smell of Jasmine was particularly strong this evening. Riding along and suddenly you are hit by the heavenly and intoxicating smell, that lingers for what seems like an age, and then just as suddenly it’s gone, replaced by the smell of the sea, salty, seaweedy but fresh.
I observed the fisherman as I returned along Meon Shore, now settled down for the night. Some were in their vans, others wrapped in blankets staring at their lines. Some rods were adorned with small lights, like miniature towers with aircraft warning lights on.
One of our senses that is mostly dulled by night riding is sight. Our focus tends to be on the spot on the road when the headlight hits the tarmac. It is possibly the time of day when we most look ahead instead of around us. But this focus does enable some wow moments. Like when you notice a view that looks very different at night, or you spot something that has been lit up for the night. The Spinnaker tower looked particularly majestic tonight, light up in a bright cerise colour, standing guard to the entrance of Portsmouth harbour.
With empty roads, and a perfect temperature I could have ridden all night. It I hadn’t needed to get home for my dogs I may have done just that. So I didn’t go directly home, instead heading towards one of my training hills. By now it was gone 11pm, which meant there would be no traffic, and I would have the Forts road that overlooked Portsmouth all to myself. It really is the most amazing night view over the city, and one of my favourites in the area. I will happily do the climb to the top at any time of night to see that view.
Solo night riding is the ultimate in mindfulness. Yes, you can use the time to think, but it’s so much better to just leave your cares elsewhere for a while. Soak up the alternative world that surrounds you, just take it all in. Open your ears up to the night world, take a deep breath and inhale the perfume of the night. Enjoy the empty roads, and take in views of distant towns and villages. Look up at the night sky and notice how brightly the stars shine.
Is cycling a great release? I believe so. Is night riding good for the soul? You bet it is!
A note from the author…..
This year I am raising money for mental health through my running and cycling. All donations will go to Solent Mind who provide mental health services in the Solent area.
If you have been enjoying my blog, and care about supporting mental health, please consider a donation via my Just Giving page.
You never know when you might need their services.
Thank you in advance