One of the best things about heading out for a bike ride is the fact that, on any given day, you never know for sure exactly what you might see, hear, or get involved in.
Over the years I’ve found myself head to head with a charging hare, digging a stranded pensioner out of the snow on top of the Yorkshire Dales, and engaged in more weather related near-survival situations than I’d care to remember.
But it’s not just the adventure and the drama that makes a ride. Often it’s quirky little occurrences and situations which put a smile on the face and elevate the humble bike ride to more than just exercise.
Last week I went out for a wet and windy winter ride alone. It was cold and unpleasant, but not some great epic struggle; just a bike ride in January. An hour in, as I approached a row of country cottages in my own little world, I spotted a young lad – aged 13 or 14 maybe – leaving his front garden.
As he saw me approach from 50 yards away, he immediately turned and started sprinting down the road, arms flailing, running into the same sideways rain that I was pedalling.
“Odd, I thought, what’s he spotted?”
I looked over my shoulder but could see nothing obvious through the gloom. Was he running from me? I pedalled hard, caught up with him, and peered across at his face to find a wide grin; he was racing me for the sheer hell of it! On seeing I’d caught him he threw his head back gloriously in mock disappointment and tried to high five me mid-gallop; I was always going to win but he put up a good fight (and the high five was a nice touch).
But I know what you’re thinking:
“That sounds like great fun, but what’s all this about being charged by a hare…?”
I was way out in the windswept lanes of the Yorkshire Dales (territory which, post 2014, is known as Tour de France country), and three hours into a five hour ride. I was in a groove; head down and breathing hard with the effort. I looked up for a moment, only to do a comic double take. A wild animal was running down the road, straight at me.
Too big to be a rabbit and too, well…unlike a dog to be a dog, I tensed up on the bike and braced myself thinking WHAT…IS…THAT!?
It was a huge, brave, reckless hare.
I’ve had my share of encounters with wildlife – sheep, rabbits, even a peacock before now – but this was my first run-in with a hare, and the size of the thing was alarming. Just to be clear, I’m not describing a hare that’s jumped out from a field and bolted into the road randomly; this was no animal in the throes of blind panic; this was a wild animal that meant business – displaying the kind of clinical aggression usually directed towards the cyclists of Surrey by the mums and dads on a particularly stressful school run.
As it headed straight for me, seemingly hell-bent on a collision, I had about two seconds to think about the consequences of a coming together between a big hare and a tired cyclist, before it swerved at the last minute and leapt over a wall.
It seems this time I was spared.
And now I know what you’re thinking again:
Luckily, I’ve shared that story already: “A Ride On The Wild Side”