Despite a lot of the UK being hit by freezing conditions with snow over the past week...down here in this part of the south coast we have managed to avoid the worst of the bad weather.
Yes, we have had some very cold nights and riding my bike over the past few days has been a bitterly cold experience but as yet I have not seen any snow, although the weather forecast for the next few days is telling us that we should expect to see a snowfall soon.
Avoiding the really bad weather has been working in my favour, allowing me to get out on most days of the week in my attempt to clock up as many miles as possible early in the year.
I am doing this to take the pressure off me in the months to come in my pursuit of hitting 10,000 miles this year.
The other day as I was riding on one of my favourite circular rides, my thoughts started to wander as they often do as I am spinning along.
The question "why do I do this?" floated through my head.
I am often asked why I ride my bike and the answer to that one is simple...because I enjoy it so much....I love the physical act of spinning the pedals and the buzz that I get in covering the miles quicker than walking, but most of the time still slow enough to see the countryside that I am passing through...
These thoughts were coming and going through my mind as I arrived at the bottom of one of the many hills that I ride in this part of Dorset... This one in particular is a 20% beauty which has a real sting in the tail in the way that it has a really nasty kick up in the last quarter section.
As I started to head in an upward direction my speed went in a downward direction and the question Why? entered my head again.
Why do I like riding up hills so much?
I dropped down the gears a bit and started to settle into a cadence that I knew I was comfortable with.....then I started to struggle.
No, I wasn't struggling with the hill so much as struggling with an answer to the question that had been posed in my head.
The gradient continued to increase and I continued to drop through my gears one by one as my forward movement became slower. At this time of year the hill can become quite slippery, so it is better to remain seated...if you stand up on the pedals you run a real risk of spinning the rear wheel and losing all forward momentum.
I have been riding this hill for a good few years now and it 'never' gets easier. The fitter I get I might go up it a bit faster, but it is never easy.
I reached that last quarter section and the hill kicked up and I dropped down to 34/25 the smallest gear on the Tifosi .
Why do I do this?
That question was still floating around in my head and was still unanswered... My legs were hurting now...Lot's of thoughts now....I can't stop...I mustn't stop...If I do I will probably fall off the bike on this hill....If I stop I will never get started again....Why? Why do I do this... I'm 64 years old..I could be at home in the warm....My feet wouldn't be feeling like blocks of ice....I must be mad riding this hill at this time of year....Why?
Then all of a sudden I am at the top...the road levels out and I click up through the gears. I pass the car park at the summit viewpoint...in the summer it's usually filled with cars but today it's empty. I ride along the short level summit road and realize that I still haven't managed to answer that question..Why do I like to ride up hills?
I reach the sharp left hand bend click up further through the gears...in the big ring now and the road starts to descend.
The descent from this hill is exhilarating...just two small bends in the middle...the rest is straight down with a very sharp left hand bend at the bottom.
I am now in my highest gear...a glance at the Garmin tells me that I am travelling at 43mph.... 44mph....45mph around the two short bends and into the straight..I glance at the Garmin again 46mph.... 47mph......
I am approaching that sharp left hander at the bottom.. one last glance and it's nudging 50mph.
I brake hard and then negotiate the bend...I sit up and flick the lever to drop me down to the middle of the rear cogs.
As I head along the road at a steady 20 mph that little question pops into my head again....Why?....Why do I love riding up hills so much?
No, it's not just the descent.
Exhilarating as it is, if that was the only reason... I could just push my bike to the top and then ride down the hill...no it must be something else. There must be some other reason why I get some form of enjoyment in the struggle to the top.
Perhaps...just perhaps....it's because I then feel that I have earned the right to enjoy the descent....But it is only perhaps......!!