Enchantment on a bicycle

It’s getting close to the shortest day of the year now and according to BBC weather, sunrise is at 8:36am and sunset at 3:26pm in Aberdeen. However it’s light at both of these times, I guess because we get the sunlight before the sun appears on the horizon and also after it disappears.

The temperature range is around 1-3C at the moment. Most mornings I have to scrape the ice off the seat of my bike before heading out to school each day. Last week there was a very heavy frost and the entire bike was covered in ice. The kids thought this was wonderful and so did I. I love the cold frosty mornings when everything is covered in ice.

The pavements have been sprinkled with salt so they’re not particularly slippery. I don’t really notice the ice when I’m on my bicycle. I think it feels more slippery underfoot. The other morning I got back from school drop-off and the minute I hopped off my bike outside our house I slipped and fell over. Fortunately no-one was around to hear me swear. I haven’t seen anyone else slip over; I’m the only clumsy one, it seems.

Sometimes it rains when I’m cycling to and from school and you might think this is unpleasant but it really isn’t. There’s something about being out in the elements on a bicycle and travelling under my own steam that makes me feel truly alive and I love it. George Monbiot published an article today called Civilisation is Boring. He thinks that by wiping out so many other species on our planet we have lost some of the enchantment we might have had if these animals were still a part of our world. I agree with him of course, but I also feel the same way when I sit inside a car – as though I’m not really living and enjoying the short time I have here. When I’m outside on a bicycle I get this enchantment back. This feeling that I’m a living thing in the world and at the mercy of the weather. It’s a nice feeling. I think I must have been born to cycle.

28 Replies to “Enchantment on a bicycle”

  1. I think this is true and a lovely way of looking at things, which I identify with. I’m hoping that once I’ve got rid of my car and am walking from work to the station that I feel the same way in the cold and dark!

    1. It helps to have a thick coat that keeps you warm and dry. I might be out in the rain but I’m still comfortable and you get warm when you’re walking and cycling. It feels great. I guess it’s not possible for you to live within walking distance of your work?

      1. I like Lewes very much, it is a bit like York. And I like my workplace very much, but it is in Eastbourne which is a bit like, well, there isn’t an equivalent outside the south coast, but dare I say it, it’s more Auckland than Aberdeen. I could choose to move jobs to Lewes, but I really do feel loyal to work, they have treated me very well. It’s a difficult choice!

      2. But you are right, I would save a whole hour *every day* if I lived nearer where I worked. So that would be a whole extra hour for reading and writing…
        I have to say that if Database Manager at the local school came up, I would be stupid not to think about it. The weird thing about me is that Database Manager is pretty much the only job that fits me perfectly! It’s paid relatively well for admin, but without any of the stress that a more high profile job would bring with it.

      3. Database manager sounds like a really interesting job and if you like the people you work with and the school then it’s a double bonus.

        I’ve just googled Lewes and it looks really nice too. I can see why you want to live there.

    1. I’m very careful and quite slow. I ride a heavy bakfiets with two school-age children in it so I can’t go very fast at all 🙂

  2. I can identify with so much of your post. It is such a great feeling to just be out in the elements, exploring nature. I have also found that biking across ice seems safer than walking on it. I just remember to be cautious when turning, cautious when braking and to never try to turn and brake at the same time.

    1. Yes, I feel the same way about the slipperiness – it definitely feels more slippery walking than cycling. Turning corners is the tricky part I guess but I haven’t skidded or even noticed the sliperiness so far.

  3. Just got to work through driving sleet this morning on the bike. Definitely feeling alive and better than driving but not, I have to confess, an entirely positive experience…

    1. I confess that I took the car in to work this morning. Such a wimp I know …..I enjoyed the drive in for the novelty of it – as opposed to cycling in everyday. I can now say however that I missed my cycle this morning ( soggy or not) and feel decidedly flatter this morning as a result. Now needing the energising buzz you get from it and reverting to coffee instead.

      1. It’s a bright, sunny day in Aberdeen today; same as yesterday. We seem to have missed the wild weather the rest of the country was hit with. Or maybe it’s still coming?

      2. Localised but heavy snow around Edinburgh – landing in the city centre as soggy sleet with a biting wind.
        Seems to have passed over heading East so brightening up again already. More to come apparently.

      3. Damn! I want snow but still none so far. I thought we were supposed to get it first, being further north.

      4. Ach well – it’s not lying around here either – dribbling away leaving grey skies and cold winds. I love a good fresh snowfall that brightens the place. I get strangely excited about the tragic mayhem, the scrunching footprints, the sudden flurry of scarves and boringly hats – it brings out the kid in me. Love it. Sadly not here yet.

      5. aHEM! Tragic mayhem should read as traffic mayhem – might make better sense that way.

      6. Yes, I get very excited about snow. I don’t think you can find anyone more excited than an Australian in the snow.

    2. Yes, well, I was just referring to rain which in Aberdeen tends to be a light drizzle. I probably wouldn’t enjoy it so much in a blizzard 🙂

  4. I’ve managed to keep up cycling to work twice a week, more or less. Missed today because I have a cold and the forecast was for heavy showers.

    My commute in 12.5 miles each way, though, which means very careful choice of clothing – the absolute minimum to avoid freezing – pannier bags, the lot. One good recent invention is the high-power LED – my bike headlights are rated at 5000 lumens, which is comparable to car headlights with about 3 hours battery life. This makes dedicated rural cycle paths viable even at night. This leads to the strange experience of cycling under the stars once you are outside of streetlight zones.

    Experience says that rain is much worse than cold. Being as I live in Somerset, snow is not really an issue most years.

    1. Andrew,
      Wow! I’m impressed that you cycle that far to work twice a week. My cycle ride each day is just to the local school; a distance which is also walkable. I just like cycling and the kids love it and I also like that they stay warm and dry inside my bike even when it’s raining. But I probably wouldn’t do it if I had to go that far. My journey is also in the daylight both before and after school. I do have lights on my bike and I use them even though it’s not dark. The front light on my bike is an excellent pedal-powered light which I keep switched on all year round as it doesn’t require batteries.

    2. Andrew, I manage 10 miles each way, so you’re beating me on distance but I do it pretty much every day so can claim virtue on that front 🙂

      And LED lights – yes – technology so good it’s like magic!

      1. Yes, the next step for me would be to go from a 2-car to 1-car family based on my commuting entirely by bike. That would be getting pretty serious.. cycling whatever the weather.

        When I first started, just getting to work and back was a serious achievement.. 5 months later and I’m doing it without much worry – the improvement in fitness is amazing.

      2. We went from 2 to 1 car about 5 years ago. I hated the idea but it has been a real success. You can hire a LOT of taxis on the savings from not running a car.

      3. We’ve just gone from 1 car to 0 cars and I’m loving it. We’re planning to go away for a week over Christmas and have hired a car for then, but for most other trips we cycle, walk, or train.

  5. I agree…you are born to cycle Rachel and also to fill us with hope that we don’t have be trapped by the confines of this life just because that’s that ‘they’ say we should be doing. You know how to live girl, good on you 🙂

    1. What a nice thing to say! Thank you. I’m very lucky not to have a long compute in a car everyday and I realise that. People who have long commutes are the most miserable while people who get to cycle to work are apparently the happiest.

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