One of the aims of Braintree Easy Riders, is that groups of riders will organise their own rides. Yesterday, this is exactly what happened as the BER official ride was cancelled.
Seven of us (Cathy, Diane, Margot, Peter, Mark, Julie, and Ann) met up for a ride in the open air, while being aware of social distancing.
UK Cycling's guidance can be found here
I planned a route for 25 miles, heading out south west into the 15mph headwind, and back north east with a tailwind. I’d also taken into account that I did not feel fit enough for steep hills, my preference for riding the lesser known quiet lanes and aiming for 10mph average. All riders took their turn as back marker – there was lots of good riding behaviour, with riders looking out for each other.
Diane and Margot came to my house off Acorn Avenue, and we pedalled up the Flitch Way to Rayne Station where we met the others. We headed off down to Willows Green, where I took the group on an unnecessary detour around the River Tey down to Little Leighs, (largely because I was not wearing my glasses while reading the map). I asked the group to think up some nuggets of positivity to share with the Easy Riders during the current health scare. My contribution to positive thinking is from my recent visit to Manchester. I met up with a friend I had not seen for 30 years. Gordon is aged 67 and looks after his Mum, aged 98. She has multiple health conditions. They live in adjacent roads and usually eat together. When his Mum is well enough, she cooks; when she is not, he cooks. But I found it absolutely admirable the way in which he spoke affectionately about her – they obviously really like each other. (To put this into context, I, my brother, my cousins and all my friends who have cared for an aged parent, have all found it to be hard, frustrating work particularly when parents are un-cooperative). And Gordon had nothing but affection and respect for his Mum, her independence and her planning abilities that enabled him to have a break. I found it uplifting to listen to how they worked together, each considering the other’s welfare.
Julie’s nugget of positivity was that she was enjoying watching spring flowers come out. We saw lots of daffodils, primroses, a couple of cowslips, and purple deadnettle. We found The Stores in Great Waltham was open, and we saw the outdoor tables were vacant. On this basis, we stopped for a tea break, and sat outdoors. The Stores were very glad to see us – only one group of 3 was inside (and the back door was kept open for ventilation). Lots of reminders about hand washing for 20 seconds are being given, and I’ve started singing Happy Birthday three times – once while washing, once while rinsing and once while drying.
Refuelled, we hit the road again, heading south. Ann was a fantastic support rider, as she had mapped our route on Garmin. I was struggling with the map (no glasses, fuzzy vision). I had deliberately chosen lanes I rarely ride (I get bored riding the same roads continually) and a clockwise route (more right turns than an anti-clockwise route, but it makes the ride feel different). We wended our way through Chignal Smealy, Mashbury, and Stagden Cross. We turned north towards Onslow Green, and started to get the benefit of a tailwind. We crossed the B1008, which I discovered is about 80m above sea level here. We freewheeled through North End, dropping nearly 40m over about half a mile, to cross the river at 43m above sea level, before pedalling back up Mill Lane into Felstead, 70m above sea level.
Mark’s nugget of positivity is that he has the opportunity to ride a mountain in Columbia next year with a friend. A two day ride covering c70 miles of climbing. So Mark was using all our hills for training, and in some places he raced ahead going up a hill, did a U turn at the top, to go down and up again.
I spent time thinking about how cycling is so much healthier than sitting indoors. Riding makes you breathe deeply, getting some serious air exchange into the full capacity of your lungs. Sedentary life does not stir up the gases in the bottom of your lungs … so presumably allows things to ferment. Yuk. And unless homes are adequately ventilated, the same air goes in and out of your lungs. So riding your bike in the open air must be an optimal activity. So today’s health and safety advice is – remain active in the open air.
My original plan was to return via the Flitch Way. But on reaching Felstead, we’d already done 25 miles, so we returned via the road to Rayne. I was guilty of accelerating towards home, (my friend Maurice used to sagely observe I did this every time we went out!) and was reminded to keep the pace down. We stopped beside some donkeys at Frenches Green, and they came over to us – looking hopefully for titbits – and were unfortunately disappointed.