This week, I’ve been thinking about making some 2023 cycling resolutions. But that is as far as I’ve got – the thinking.
Cycled around Blenheim. I’ve always felt that this town has a strange atmosphere. Cycled into the New World car park, and it took me ages to find my way out again. In some ways Blenheim is like one big New World car park.
Decided to ride up to Picton to catch the ferry. After my Sunday ride, I was feeling strong, confident, assertive. Around 11.15am I said goodbye to my parents and set off. My tyres immediately sank into the deep gravel of the driveway and I was unable to move. Cries of dismay from Mum. But I recovered, and heaved my heavy load onwards, out of the driveway at last and down Budge Street, into a glarey day.
For the first 6km or so I rolled along the cycle path beside SH1.
This path is a triumph of flatness. Not pictured here obviously are the horses and ponies, the vineyards, once again the small bridges . . . anyway it was all over too soon, and at Spring Creek I was shuttled off onto the highway, alongside the trucks and speedboats and campervans and horse floats. I was feeling less strung-out than when going in the other direction on Sunday, though, and didn’t need to let out as many yelps of fear.
When heading north, you have to cross over the busy road to get to the clip-on bridge across the Wairau. This is terrifying – the passing cars travel so fast it’s like they’re falling from a great height. But your reward for crossing over is the bridge.
I rode slowly so I could take in as much of this bridge as possible. The glittering water, the pale stones of the exposed bed, the tiny cross-hatched wires along the bridge surface. When you reach the other side, the cycle path halts and you’re sternly pointed back to where you’ve come from. Wanted to sob: Please. Don’t make me go over there. I am your son.
Stopped at Speeds Rd after Koromiko for a breather. The ice in my water bottle now a warm slurry. Traffic roaring. I saw a red and white edge-marker post lying on the road and, not far from it, a flattened sign: ‘Please drive safely’. Excellent.
Saw only one other cyclist: a lithe guy on a road bike, with the words (I think) PHYSICAL SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT on his backside. What could it mean? I shrieked ‘Hi!’ as is the custom, but he scythed past without a nod. Fair enough. Weirdly, though – or, weirdly to me – he was riding way out on the right of the shoulder, on the white line, as vehicles whipped past just inches away. He stayed there for as long as I could see him. Maybe he was trying to draft the cars, or maybe this is some road-cycling thing I don’t understand.
I’m embarrassed to say that after about 18km my legs were sore. I think the soreness was from trying to keep up a good clip the whole way, and because I’d cycled and run the previous day, like a loon. Anyway, there’s a hill on the approach into Picton that just about finished me off. It’s not a steep hill, more a slow, sweeping grind, but I had two full panniers – which could’ve been fuller if I hadn’t resisted Mum’s urges to fill all my remaining space with lemons – and much of the shoulder is gravelly, the sort of surface that your tyres want to have a fight with at every turn. I soon found myself crawling, breath like sandpaper, imagining the passing drivers shaking their heads.
But then – the sweetness of the descent, and all of a sudden you’re in Picton, the gravel turning to a cushiony tarseal that feels almost cool and plump, like the skin of a perfectly ripe banana. Then I was nearly hit by a car surging out of a side road without looking. Still, I managed to make it to the terminal in one piece.
All up, this ride took around an hour ten, faster than the way in. Had a bird-bath in the terminal loos and felt like I had returned to civilisation, until five minutes later, when a flood of fresh sweat was unleashed upon me.
There were just two other cyclists on the ferry, and as we unlocked our bikes at the Wellington terminal I got talking to a woman who had cycled from Nelson in the early morning. We were talking about the intensity of the ride up to Picton and she said, ‘I don’t think New Zealanders like cyclists very much.’
Maybe it’s no good to think about people in this way – I think the assumption of being disliked can bed in, and fester, and make your riding life feel horrible and combative, and it becomes harder to see all of the small kindnesses that drivers sometimes give you. But on the whole, I have this heart-sinky feeling that she was essentially right: that NZers don’t like cyclists very much. Or maybe when you are on a bike it’s just safest to assume that this is true.
Rode home from the ferry terminal up to Highbury, the streets all quiet. Legs felt like shimmering mirages about to disappear.
I’m very lucky to have a few more days off from work. This was a no ride day, but I bought a new front light. One which unfortunately reminds me of Elon Musk’s hideous ‘cyber truck’ thing.
Rode into town to go to the physio.
INJURY TALK INTERLUDE
I have a chronic Achilles injury that I am desperate to fix so that I can up my running mileage. But to be honest, it’s been going on for so long that I’ve mostly given up hope. I think it might be all over for this Achilles. The new physio I saw today is convinced that it can be fixed. He massaged my leg with a percussive gun and then stuck needles into my calf. He said we need to fully exhaust all our treatment avenues – strengthening, mostly – before trying more drastic measures, such as something called Shockwave Therapy, which involves blasting ‘high energy sound waves’ into the leg. I’ll do the strengthening, but secretly I want and must have the shockwaves.
A small ride into town, then back up, sweating hugely in the muggy pre-rain, pannier full of groceries. I can feel the work year looming and I am nowhere near ready. Maybe a Big Ride on the weekend, to shake out the Fear.