So my parents live about 100 miles away, and the other weekend I decided to go and see them. By bicycle, as you do. Now I will admit that a 200 mile round trip probably does not count as utility cycling, especially as I didn’t get to see all that much of my parents, as I turned up mid afternoon on the Saturday and left again first thing on the Sunday morning. I really enjoyed the outward trip, but the return leg took me much longer. This was partly because I was tired, of course, but also on the outward leg I went along the obvious route, pretty much exactly as I would drive (the exception being that I would use the Edinburgh bypass in a car and you’re not allowed to cycle on it). On the other hand, the return leg used a lot of quieter back roads, which had more hills and corners and needed me to stop and get the map out. In other words, unsurprisingly the fastest route in the car was the fastest route by bike, too.
That fast route is a main road, and I was a bit concerned about what the traffic would be like, but actually it was fine. I mean, fine if you are used to busy main road traffic and can deal with the odd numpty who thinks that they can overtake on the crest of a blind hill (yes, I’m looking at you, oh driver of the white Audi, and yes there was something coming the other way) or the people who seem to think that because the car in front has got past they car too, but with half as much overtaking room – the usual things that mean that for many people the suggestion that one might cycle even a short distance on that road would bring the response “no, far too dangerous”. The scariest moment was actually a pair of trucks who were travelling right behind one another – the first one pulled out just a little to go round me, so I moved into what they call the sacrificial tarmac by the side of the road to get to a bit more space and so the following lorry didn’t seem to move out at all. They had foreign number plates and I have seen it suggested that drivers of left hand drive vehicles sometimes leave less space because they can see the cyclist better – but I don’t think there’s any excuse for passing so close. And it is driving like that that keeps cyclists off the road. In spite of the odd moment, I rolled up to my parents’ front door saying “that was a lot of fun”.
The return leg was not so much fun. As I said, I used a lot more back roads and they were much quieter. And hillier and more twisty. And I was tired. And I had a headwind. Still, in the end I got back, and I’m glad I did it. I’m not sure if I’ll do it again in a hurry, though I do quite fancy cycling down and getting the train back.