Speed. It’s exhilarating. Addictive, even. Exciting. Dangerous, too, of course, but that only makes it more exciting. I know. I’ve been there.
My personal speed record on a bicycle (with 700c x 25 skinny wheels, while dressed only in Lycra) is 53mph (85kph), during a descent off Peak Hill, when riding a sportive called the Dartmoor Classic. It was equal parts thrilling and terrifying, and I was under no illusions that any mistake at that speed would end up in a world of pain, or worse.
Maybe it’s because I’m older, and (allegedly) wiser now – then again, that’s probably not the reason why – but I’ve learned to value of slowing down. This is the reason why I mostly cycle on my own. Sometimes, you crest a hill, or ride past a gap in the hedgerow, and the view simply takes your breath away.
If riding in a group, especially a group of roadies whose cycling exclusively exists of being head-down, arse-up, going as fast as possible, a rapid way of deeply annoying people is to stop, just to drink in the view for a while.
This is just one of the benefits of cycle touring – when pedalling a laden bike up a hill, you’ll already be going slow (I was once overtaken by two joggers!) and you’ll be glad of an excuse to stop. I always try to tell people to forget about the clock, and to slow down. Stop often, and take lots and lots of pictures, too.
I use Google Photos (mine’s an Android phone) and pics taken along the way are automatically uploaded. This means that, even if my phone was lost or destroyed, I would still have those photos, and scrolling through them is a trip down memory lane – I even have the photos I took when I first cycled Devon Coast To Coast, back in 2011.
Going fast means not stopping for photos. It means not stopping to drink in that view. It means not smelling that flower growing by the roadside. Going fast means giving up so much, just for a bit of speed, and while going fast on a bicycle can be fun, overall, your life will be better if you started slowing down.
If you look at the photo above, at first it seems utterly unremarkable. It was taken on a cloudy day, and isn’t the greatest view I’ve ever seen. And yet, if you clicked on it, to open the pic full-size, you should just be able to make out the white horse on the hillside, in Wiltshire.
My cycling companions didn’t stop, and I’m not even sure they noticed the white horse – if they did, they gave no indication of that. I stopped, though, and took that photo. Yes, it isn’t a great photo, but I stopped, and took in the view for a bit. If you could see what my eyes saw, you’ll agree the photo doesn’t do it justice.
Still, in ten, or twenty years time, I’ll still have that photo. I’ll still have that memory. My life would still be a tiny bit better, because I slowed down, then stopped.
Try it. Lower the overall mileage you’re aiming for in a day, and ride slower, too. Your soul will thank you.