Cycling in the sweet spot

I live in a world where family, cycling, and work compete head to head in a battle for my time and affections.

Like many a cyclist, on a sunny Wednesday afternoon I have been known to utilise the wonders of flexi-time to sneak out of the office when no-one is looking, and head off for a little bike-related adventure, but when it comes to family it’s not that simple.

Apart from anything, they don’t seem to operate in accordance with the normal rules of flexi-time.

A little slice of heaven
A little slice of heaven

However, sometimes things just fall into place, and who am I to question circumstance when the stars have clearly aligned and there is sun-kissed tarmac to be ridden.

Let me explain.

My wife recently went away for a hard-earned four day weekend with the girls, leaving me in sole charge of the kids:

Not so much “when the cat’s away the mice will play”, as “when the cat’s away the mice will attempt to wrestle control from the deputy cat in an epic four day power struggle.”

It was more fun than it might sound.

Anyway, day three – Monday – is the day when Grandparents do what Grandparents do and whisk the young boys away for a day of bike rides, ice-creams and farm visits, and so I find myself with a day off work, no wife and kids, and gloriously, a long sunny day stretching out ahead of me.

I took the most predicable course of action – I dusted off my favourite cycling kit and headed out with a plan involving fifty or sixty miles in the saddle, perhaps a spot of lunch in some idyllic country café, and some much needed topping up of my cyclist’s tan lines into the bargain.

This is what’s known in the work/life/bike balance as ‘the sweet spot’.

A long bike ride on a week day feels different. You pass (presumably retired) guys who give the impression they do this every Monday, and the reason you pass them is because they aren’t trying to gobble up the miles like their life depends on it – they know that another sunny day free of obligations will be just around the corner…there’s no hurry.

I’m not one for wishing my life away, but I can’t help but look forward to a bit of that.

(Image: ragtimecyclist)
The sweet spot (Image: ragtimecyclist)

At one point this strange holiday atmosphere almost led me to stop at a farm-shop-cum-ice-cream-parlour (now that’s diversification for you) in the name of topping up my energy levels. As I mulled over the benefits of raspberry ripple as a form of sports nutrition I eventually came to my senses, and reflected on the fact that having only covered twenty miles at that point I was in very real danger of taking on board more calories than I was burning off.

With a steely resolve, I pushed on.

I rolled along the sun-dappled country lanes with a spring in my pedal stroke and the thought that no-one knew where I was, what I was doing, or when I’d be back. In fact, I could have had that ice-cream and no-one would have been any the wiser.

Could you resist stopping here for a spot of lunch?
Could you resist stopping here for a spot of lunch?

After forty-five miles I passed a local café known for making cyclists happy with quick service and large portions. Quickly calculating that I’d surely burnt off a few thousand calories by this point I slammed on the brakes, pulled a quick U-turn, and within five minutes found myself basking in sunshine cappuccino in hand, and with a ‘Hunter’s Chicken’ baguette imminent.

As an alternative to work, sitting in the sunshine with satisfyingly tired legs and a large plate of food to go at is probably about as good as it gets. Having said that, the attack of “café-legs” I suffered as I headed off for the final fifteen miles home was something to behold.

A baguette stuffed full of chicken, bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce is frankly not the sort of thing a self-respecting cyclist should be tucking into mid-ride.

The less said about the pile of French fries on the side, the better.

It’s a good job I didn’t have the ice-cream too!

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