The road tilts up gently. The wind begins to push hard against your face. You automatically shift into an easier gear to maintain cadence.
Sometimes you can see when you will need to shift. Sometimes you can just feel it. Sometimes it’s subtle; sometimes it’s not.
One of the joys of having ridden for many years is how you know just by instinct when to shift. It becomes automatic and not something you usually even think about.
And so, this year looks like it will be all about shifting.
If you happen to know either of my email addresses, they indirectly or directly refer to the idea that 2020 was supposed to be my next big bike tour. Five years have elapsed since the last tour – so going into year six meant this should be the year.
But it is not to be. In the past two years, I’ve spent the bike touring funds on doctor’s visits and medical tests. And though my body rallied late last year with the assistance of antibiotics, I am still not well enough to begin regaining fitness and riding long distances or riding in challenging terrain.
So I can see what’s ahead of me. It requires some shifting… of goals and priorities.
I’ve taken up a new job instead of going on the next big tour. My medical bills should decrease again soon, as I’ve finally found a good doctor to help me heal and should not have to do many more tests. It is just a matter of being patient, i.e. spinning easy gears, before I can begin shifting into harder activities in 9-12 months time.
So why not earn some money while waiting for the body to heal, if I can’t go on tour?
As I started to feel better in December last year, I began to think about what 3-day rides I most wanted to do in the area. I was thinking about how I should be able to start doing a bit more riding again by March when the weather cools, if my health continues on its gentle upward trend.
Immediately I was planning out some ideas in the Upper Murray because it has such interesting geology and is one of my favourite places to ride locally.
But that has all just burnt in the Green Valley/Talmalmo fire. Many, many of my favourite roads and areas have already burnt this season. Those forested areas won’t be much fun to visit for some time to come. When I think of all the places I’ve ridden in the past five years, it is unfathomable how many of those places have burnt this year.
So once again, I’ve had to shift my thoughts about where to do three-day rides this autumn. The fires have been so extensive that many options have gone. I dare not mention the places remaining for fear of seeing them succumb later, for we are still early in the fire season.
Still, I hope this year sees a more sustained return to riding, even if it is still rather easy and short ventures. I hope to find a slightly more challenging cadence that will help me slowly rebuild my muscle and fitness.
I certainly think I’ve made it through the rockiest bits – those sections of road or track where you have to stop pedaling as you absorb the bumps and shocks and just ride out the terrain – and can at least begin finding a steady cadence to life again.
Now… just to wait for the summer heat and bushfire smoke to subside.
I cannot tell you what a joy it is to start looking at the ‘where shall we ride’ map once again.