Travellers' Tales: slow cycling in Somerset
During the ten years of my metamorphosis into a MAMIL, I’ve done the Fred Whitton, climbed Alpe d’Huez, even managed London to Sheffield in a day (194 miles). I have cycle toured, riding the Coast to Coast and down the Rhine. But last October I discovered something different.
Airbnb suggested a cottage in Somerset as a last minute staycation. My wife Catherine and I went there with bikes, walking boots, and the intention of doing as little as possible. To fill the days, we took in some local sights: stately homes, secondhand bookshops, and cider makers. As they weren’t far apart we cycled, taking our time. Slow cycling: the difference between a brisk walk and a leisurely stroll.
It was a revelation. Hills were a breeze. Elsewhere we freewheeled. We developed an alternative Strava, with kudos for stopping to admire a view/let a car pass/ pick a blackberry. We even wore normal clothes, eliciting smiles and “good mornings” from the people we passed.
And Somerset was perfect. Country lanes and picture-postcard villages much like the Cotswolds but, being further from London, quieter. We will still cycle tour, and this Saturday I will be out with my mates grinding up hills and hurtling down them. But I’m glad I’ve discovered that there’s more than one way to enjoy two wheels.