Cycling close to home – voyages of discovery and rediscovery

Copyright photo Kevin MayneThere is no doubt that some of my friends and family who might be considered “serious cyclists” are getting pretty frustrated by their local rules which impose cycling close to home. The loss of a right to roam is taking away their ability to ride far and wide, especially challenging for those whole normal behaviour might be 3-5 hours on bike or mountain bike.

On the other hand, I am loving other people’s stories of improvisation and adventure on the doorstep and I find myself completely in step with their thoughts. There is a growing social media campaign using Twitter and Strava under the hashtag #everystreet where cyclists and runners are setting out to find every street in a neighbourhood or even a whole city to fill their time and clearly they are loving it. Long distance cycling adventurer Mark Beaumont is taking his kids out on their bikes to ride every street in Edinburgh, Scotland, which I think is a brilliant idea for himself and the kids.

I have started on my own version as I make sure I maintain health and sanity during the challenges of lockdown. Its really important here in Belgium because there is always the risk that the authorities could have imposed the lockdown of our French neighbours, but they have so far maintained support for exercise, once a day, close to home. Most of the cycling associations are sending out very strong messages to say “don’t mess this up” to their communities and I fully support that.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my “every hill” challenge which I do on my road bike, but for my morning “commutes” I am using now my mountain bike on the local tracks because this is totally discrete and they are completely deserted. Over the last 8 years of the blog I have mentioned a few times that our local nature group have waymarked 250 kilometres of paths, tracks and minor roads into a network of 27 promenades that crisscross the commune (municipality). What I have never done, despite planning it several times, is to ride them all, as mapped. Maybe I have done most of the segments, but there has always been a reason to not do them exactly as planned.

Copyright photo Kevin Mayne

So far it has been brilliant, helped by the stunning weather and beautiful sunrises of the past few weeks. Such a simple thing, never more than 10km from the house. Routes 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,10 and 11 complete, 18 more to go.

I have reminded myself of hidden valleys and tiny alleyways and I have definitely found some spots where I can say “I am sure I have never been down here”. Just this week I discovered a hidden cluster of bluebells that I would never have spotted if it were not for the promenade route taking me to just the right spot at just the right time of year.

Copyright photo Kevin Mayne

(I have also rediscovered walking – I have a suspicion I avoided some of these tracks in the past because I find the very steepest walking tracks unrideable and I am reduced to my impression of a steam train as I push the bike up the bank. But it won’t do me any harm, and my dignity is safe because no one is around.)

I am lucky to live in such a country environment during this lockdown, but I know that if I was in the city I would be with the #everystreet community. To my frustrated friends I can only say that this will be over eventually, but right now take the chance to rediscover where you live, because when the lockdown stops you will forget and you will go back to your old ways, so why not do a local challenge now? And for the mountain bikers, throw yourselves behind the concept of Trails Close to Home being promoted by IMBA in the US and in Europe. As a legacy of COVID we could make sure there is somewhere close to every town and every city where people can ride from their doorsteps. That would be a great result.

New temporary motto for the blog:

When I see an adult on a bicycle close to home I do not despair for the future of the human race.