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End of Summer

Summer is drawing to a close and the rain is currently falling outside as I write this. It’s been a unique year, both on and off the bike. I’ve been thrown through the air by a car in Nice, thankfully walking … or riding slowly and painfully away from it, with nothing more than back pain, which still persists. I’ve cycled in Flanders, and I’ve stood on a booth at EuroBike, the largest cycle show in the world, and cycled in Hungary with some of the most amazing people I know.

And I guess that I should add that I’ve cycled 1100km around the north of France, using a carbon bike for touring, and taking in spectacular scenery. And to think that one year ago, I was sitting in an office, preparing frantically for an upcoming government inspection, and busily writing the presentation notes!

Cycling is one of those aspects of life that has the capacity to totally overpower us, but in a positive way. The simple act of riding through sublime countryside with the sun warming us as we quietly contemplate life, means that cycling is therapy as well as exercise, and of course it’s a lifestyle choice too, as we generally eat better along the way. Then, there’s the aspect of the human challenge, where a voice in our head tells us that we can do better, we can climb that hill faster, we can descend smoother, and we can ride for longer. All aspects that cause us to change significant things in our daily lives: to train more, to live healthier and to simply challenge our limits.

For me, cycling is a spectrum: I love the idea of challenging myself, even at 52 years of age it’s inside me – I still want to be my very best. I love to escape and to discover remote places, on both road and mtb, sharing nature with nothing more than the creatures that hide away from mankind in the high hills. And, I love to spend time with that small group of friends who are like family to me, riding alongside each other, chatting over cake and coffee, and chilling out in the company of these people as I recharge my soul through their existence in my life. It’s a spiritual thing as much as a physical thing, and this year more than most, this has been highlighted to me.

As I rode through Nice and saw the car heading towards me, I truly thought that one of three things would happen: option 1, with luck I’d walk away; option 2, I may get seriously injured; option 3, I may not wake from this … it could be the end of days. Yes, I actually had time to contemplate fate and life, before deciding to throw myself off to the side at impact, thankfully pushing myself towards option 1.

The reason I mention this now is that the accident has been impactive, in more ways than one, on how I’ve viewed this summer, life and the year so far. I’m more reflective again, and I enjoy riding for personal pleasure than I do for speed. And, I’m more emotional, knowing how close I came to … well, let’s not go there – but it means I value others more, those special people who are literally part of me.

And yes, it’s raining outside as I measure this summer in terms of cycling adventures and the life that I now lead, traveling and writing about spending time on two wheels. The trip to Hungary really was the ideal finish to the season for me. Yes, I know I’ve still got the Tour of Britain, and of course the Cycle Expo Yorkshire. However, this historic nation, tucked away in Eastern Europe, was not only extremely hot and sunny, and breathtakingly beautiful, but the people I rode with were very special too. People that reminded me of the reason I love cycling, and reminded me that life is about simply making the most of our time as we explore the world on two wheels. And, of caring for those people who make me smile and warm my very soul, through their presence in my life -which I value just that little bit more after Nice.

Autumn is around the corner, and I’m already planning for spring and summer 2019. I’ve also got friends and family to visit this autumn and winter, and a few miles to cycle with them. Yes, summer is signing off, and my cycling soul is refreshed, even if I didn’t win any Strava KOMs – but I did lose one, but who’s counting … not me anymore. I’m too busy living and using each of my 86400 seconds every day, and making sure that cycling remains central, but not the ultimate focus.